It’s not too late to talk about parsnips is it?
The weather has been so mild the past few months, that except for an early freak snowstorm in October which felled one of our trees, it feels like we’ve hardly had a winter. My garlic bulbs should only just be peeking out from the crumbly earth, but instead they are brandishing greenery I’ve previously had to wait until May to see. As I type this post I almost want to put the air conditioning on, but am resisting as it just feels too wrong.
The days are getting deliciously longer and spring has officially started per the calendar. So I shouldn’t be posting a recipe relying heavily on parsnips, wintery apples, and pork should I? After all, our thoughts are all trained on asparagus and spring flowers, and here I am reveling in root vegetables?
I blame the farmer’s market. I’ve been lucky enough to find a winter market nearby and there’s nothing so cheery to me as stopping in Saturday morning and seeing tables heavy with gold and red and candy-cane-striped beets, watermelon radishes, and deep blue-green kale.
In the grocery store I can’t get all that excited about these winter stalwarts–while I (mostly) valiantly resist the imported strawberries and eggplants, their presence does put a damper on my enthusiasm for roots and greens.
At my winter market, however, the vendors slice open the muted, even dusty roots, letting the bright hues shine forward. I chat with one of my favorite growers about our respective preschoolers, E asks another about the animals back out on his farm, and both boys are thrilled to eat jam straight off a spoon at Robin’s stall.
And so I come home with cabbage, sweet potatoes, and nearly two pounds of parsnips.
What to do?
I figured that the sweetness of the parsnips would serve as a nice base for roasted pork. As I browsed the internet, I often saw apples added to the mix. I almost resisted, fearing it would result in a main course that was just too cloying. Funnily enough, it was the apples that roasted up tart in the oven and provided a needed counterpoint to the almost sugary parsnips. (Aha! I thought. Maybe Regan Daley‘s parsnip cake isn’t quite as odd as it sounds).
Adding the zest of a lemon and the crispness of thyme means that this meal is bright enough to bridge the gap between winter and spring–just right for March in Massachusetts, be it the March we are having this year or March as it should be.
Note: What I think may be new USDA guidelines recommend roasting until an internal temperature of 145F has been reached, and then resting (see here).
- 4 pork chops (about 5 ounces each) or 2 country style ribs (each about 10 ounces)
- 1t dried thyme
- zest of one lemon
- 1½ lb (or more) parsnips
- 1 apple
- 1 onion
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Peel and chop your parsnips into approximately ½-inch pieces. If you parsnips are large (as mine were), remove the woody inner core. I find this easiest to do as follows: cut the thinner portion off the tip (and chop that up–any core there is negligible), and cut off the stem end, leaving a squat thick “trunk.” Stand it on its larger flat end, slice it lengthwise into four long quarters, then slice out the triangle of core and discard. (If you don’t mind the core you can skip this). Chop.
- Core and thinly slice your apples, and slice your onion.
- Mix together in a baking pan, add the thyme and zest, drizzle the olive oil, and mix with your hands until well coated. Arrange the pork chops or ribs on top of the parsnip-apple mixture, and sprinkle salt and pepper on the meat.
- Roast for 30 minutes or so (depending on the thickness of your cut of pork), stirring the vegetables occasionally. Remove from the oven, rest 5 minutes, and serve.