Bon Appétit (November 2013)
We have previously lamented the poor social standing of the turnip, that underappreciated, oft-forgotten standby of the root vegetable world.
When we saw that Bon Appétit had a prominent turnip dish on their Thanksgiving menu, with these Turnips with Bacon and Pickled Mustard Seeds, it was a no-brainer that we'd make them.
Finally, some recognition for the turnip. And with bacon! And pickled mustard seeds!
Sadly, this dish isn't doing our friend the turnip too many favors.
Similar to our enthusiasm for Duck Confit with Pickled Raisins -- even if you don't make the duck, make the raisins; they are phenomenal -- we love the idea of Pickled Mustard Seeds.
As our friend Frank schooled us after we enthused about pickled raisins, David Chang has been using pickled mustard seeds for years (and as our friend Frank pointed out via email, Chang writes that he "straight up copped" the idea from Tom Colicchio). Here, they're pickled by combining mustard seeds with a brine of sugar, white balsamic vinegar and water. This is all done 4 to 12 hours in advance so they have ample time to pickle (we did this around 5 hours in advance on the day we were serving the turnips).
Outside of the time needed for pickling, this recipe is dead easy. Cook some bacon, then add it to the pickled mustard seeds. (Is your mouth watering yet?). Then boil the turnips. The recipe says this takes 3 minutes but even our small harukei turnips took closer to 20 minutes. Then toss the turnips with the bacony-pickledy vinaigrette, heat it up and serve.
So it's all simple, with ingredients and an idea that we love. So what's the problem?
There's just not enough flavor here. The turnips are bland, as turnips tend to be. We don't fault them for that -- they need flavors to be added. But that flavor is not found in the pickled mustard seeds. They don't have the bracing pickled taste that we were expecting. And the bacon even ends up getting lost in the vinaigrette (how exactly does bacon get lost?).
So that's our take: A great idea, but an end result that lacks flavor. Some of our Fakegiving guests liked the dish. They thought the turnips were nice and different. We made a double batch of this recipe, and so we had some leftovers. The turnips did get better a day or two after we made them, but still not substantially better, just fine.
Frank -- our friend and longtime reader of this blog -- emailed after we wrote about Pickled Raisins to suggest a few other pickled items that he loves. You might like them, too, so here's Frank's list and links to blogs that have the recipes:
- Mario Batali's Pickled Mustard Fruit (Mostarda de Cremona)
- The aforementioned Momofuku Pickled Mustard Seed
- Bourbon Pickled Jalapenos from Edward Lee
We've got to get to pickling....
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise ¼” thick
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 pounds baby turnips, trimmed, halved or quartered if large
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring sugar, vinegar, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in mustard seeds. Let stand at least 4 hours, or cover and chill up to 12 hours.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a small bowl and stir in pickled mustard seeds and whole grain mustard; set vinaigrette aside.
Meanwhile, cook turnips in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and pat turnips dry.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turnips and vinaigrette and cook, tossing, until warmed through, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.