Parsnips are an ideal autumn root vegetable: starchy and sweet, they look like white carrots but cook more like potatoes. Local chefs are roasting, puréeing and pickling the hearty root this season.
Char Bar in Kansas City’s Westport neighborhood is known for its innovative approach to barbecue. But corporate executive chef Michael Peterson says about 20 to 25 percent of the restaurant’s clientele is vegetarian or vegan. In addition to serving barbecued jackfruit and other meat-free main courses at Char Bar, Peterson tries to have one or two salads at each of the restaurant group's other three restaurants – McCoy’s Public House, Beer Kitchen and The Foundry – that aren’t a standard bed of greens. The Roots & Fruits salad starts with a base of red and golden beets and parsnips, which are tossed in olive oil, fresh herbs and sea salt, and roasted until just done. The vegetables are then chilled and tossed in a blackberry-red wine vinaigrette before being topped with orange segments, crispy Brussels sprouts and parsnips, pistachios and goat cheese. Peterson says roasting is his favorite way to cook parsnips. “They have a higher starch content than carrots, so they cook more like a potato,” he says. “Roasting caramelizes the outside but leaves the inside fluffy.”
Char Bar, 4050 Pennsylvania Ave., #150, Westport, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.389.8600, charbarkc.com
In Good Company restaurant group executive chef Marc Rollins says the pickle board at Sanctuaria came about from experimentation last fall. “I thought a red pepper flake-apple cider vinegar [pickling brine] would accent the sweetness of the parsnips with a little bit of heat and the bitterness from the vinegar,” he says. The pickled parsnips are served alongside pickled cucumbers, carrots and rutabagas. This fall, the entire pickle board will be sourced from In Good Company’s Foundations Farm in Belleville, Illinois. When Sanctuaria debuted the pickle board last year at a preview dinner, the parsnips and rutabagas ran out almost immediately. “They were something different that you don’t eat every day that everybody kind of gravitated toward,” he says. Pickles are served on a dark marble board, so Rollins says the white color of parsnips added unexpected color to the presentation. “You’ve got a lot of greens, so it was a way to accent the color,” he says.
Sanctuaria, 4198 Manchester Ave., The Grove, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.535.9700, sanctuariastl.com
At Sycamore in Columbia, Missouri, chef Mike Odette says he "sneaks" parsnips onto his fall menu. Many diners claim to hate them, he says, so he often uses them in a parsnip purée. To make the purée, he covers parsnips in foil and steam-roasts them until tender and then purées them in a food processor with cubes of cold butter and salt. “Three ingredients. Guests love it, and often don’t realize they’re eating parsnips,” he says. “Sneaky? Yes, but I claim many converts!” For fans of parsnips, he also serves them simply steam-roasted. He prepares them the same way as for the purée, although he roasts them uncovered for a few additional minutes “to color them a bit.” If you’re roasting parsnips at home, Odette says a little steam helps keep them from becoming too tough. “Avoiding cutting them too thinly helps, too,” he says.
Sycamore, 800 E. Broadway, Columbia, Missouri, 573.874.8090, sycamorerestaurant.com