Described as “America’s first folk song,” this song was originally composed in 1643 and first appeared as a broadside in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that year.
Parsnips look like a large cream-coloured carrot. I have always liked the flavor of parsnips. They are earthy and slightly sweet or very sweet depending on the time of year and preparation. Before the sugar beet was introduced, early settlers and Native Americans used parsnip juice as a sweetener. Since parsnips are easily fermented, they were also used to make beer and wine in antiquity and well into the 19th century.
If you are looking to have a taste of parsnip here are some classic and not so traditional ways that parsnips are appearing on menus around town. Catch them now because, parsnips will be off the menu soon making way for all things spring. Please note that menus change frequently and seasonally so plan to be flexible and know that once these dishes are gone any of the restaurants mentioned will always have something delicious on the menu.
Roasted and Puréed
Lenox Sophia in South Boston serves a prix-fixe menu with an omnivore or vegetarian option. Both menus have a root vegetable assortment which includes parsnip, celeriac and green apple. I love the addition of green apple to these two root vegetables.This is not your rustic New England root vegetable medley however. It is described as grown up cereal and looks like a beautiful work of art in a bowl.
Catalyst Restaurants serves their Rohan duck breast with parsnip purée and roasted parsnips, which are two classic preparations. It is the pairing of caramelized endive, barley, fennel, hazelnuts and a little orange that adds layers of flavour. to a classic.
Vincent’s Corner has a roasted pork loin that is served with bacon (made in house), parsnips, braised onions and a rich creamy Bernaise sauce.
Over in Boston‘s South End, The Butcher Shop, has parsnip two ways with their crispy duck. Half of a Crescent Farm Duck is served with a parsnip purée, rainbow carrots and parsnip chips.
Also in Boston, Deuxave has a crispy-skinned Giannone chicken roasted and served with lentils du Puy, sautéed arugula, marinated dates, and a parsnip cider purée,
Back in Cambridge, Talulla has both a parsnip soup to start and parsnips nestled next to a confit chicken leg. The parsnip soup is a green curry parsnip soup served with scallop and brioche croutons.
Parsnip As a Main
One of my favourite dishes at Spoke Wine Bar is the polenta and parsnip cake. It goes perfectly with a glass of wine and is bold enough to enjoy with a cocktail too. The skillet cake fills an entire plate and is served on top of creamed kale and drizzled with a stunning electric pinkish-red fermented cranberry frssno-chili sauce.
It may take a few mezze to make up a main, but Sofra Bakery & Café has plenty to choose from. On the menu right now is a warm parsnip almond skordalia served with cubes of sweet beets, herbs, and black garlic.
Pasta and Parsnip
At Karen Akunowicz’s Fox and The Knife, parsnip makes its way into fresh filled pasta. The tortelli di pastinaca are filled with parsnip puree and gorgonzola.
Drinks and Dessert
The maple walnut tart at Spoke Wine Bar is topped with ribbons of slightly sweet and very tasty parsnip cream. The tart has a nice nuttiness and a hint of maple. I like to take some of the apple slivers and drag them through the parsnip cream for a perfect last bite.
Sometimes, I prefer a cocktail to dessert. At Birds of Paradise Bar I recommend a late night cocktail. Birds of Paradise Bar is nestled in next to the Charles River Speedway steps from the Charles River in Allston. Each cocktail has a destination as an inspiration and the flight from Boston to Guadalajara’s Parsnip Alejandro is delicious. Don’t shy away because it has cream in it and even though I said it makes a perfect dessert, it isn’t particularly sweet. It is creamy and flavourful and comforting. The Parsnip Alejandro is made with Grey Goose, salted parsnip, heavy cream, and macadamia mist.
Steel and Rye Bakery in Milton has parsnips in their savoury danish. The danish has a goat cheese filling and is layered with za’atar roasted parsnips and garlic confit then sprinkled with sumac and Parmesan all nestled in a croissant dough.
If you like a gin and tonic come summer, try to track down some Piger Henricus Gin from Quebec. It’s a really nice fin and the parsnip just adds a slight umami layer to its flavour.