Rooting for a Vegetable Mash

By Lynda Balslev
Lynda Balslev
Lynda Balslev
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Lynda studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.
November 1, 2021 Updated: November 1, 2021

A fluffy mashed or pureed vegetable side dish is always a crowd-pleaser, and the humble potato is often the star. This recipe gives the spud a rest and turns to the season’s bounty of root vegetables for inspiration.

Nutrient-rich roots are storehouses of energy and guaranteed to add an extra dimension of color and sweet, earthy flavor to the popular mash. Most roots, such as rutabaga, parsnip, carrot, and celery root, are delicious when mashed or pureed. They can be used individually or combined for more nuance and balance in flavor. This recipe combines parsnips with mellow celery root, along with a dollop of roasted garlic. The celery root tamps down the parsnips’ sweetness, and the garlic adds buttery richness to the dish.

This is an unfailingly flexible recipe, and you can tinker with the ingredients and method to your taste and preference. For instance, there are several ways to prepare root vegetables for a mash or puree. The skins can be left on for a more rustic and chunky presentation, providing the bonus of extra nutrients. For a smoother and more elegant mash, the skins can be peeled, with silkier results. Roasting root vegetables in the oven coaxes out their natural sugars and delivers extra charred flavor. Simply boiling or steaming the vegetables yields a purer mash.

This recipe is a bit of a hybrid, wherein the vegetables are cook-steamed in a generous amount of chicken stock to add a subtle savory note. (For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.) Once the vegetables are cooked until soft, use a potato masher or blitz them in a food processor with additional ingredients, such as butter and cheese, for a flavorful puree.

Parsnip and Celery Root Puree
Sweet parsnips, mellow celery root, and buttery roasted garlic balance and complement each other in this spud-less mash. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Parsnip and Celery Root Puree

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 1 medium head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds parsnips
  • 1 medium celery root, 1 to 1 1/4 pounds
  • 3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more as needed
  • 2 thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Roast the garlic: Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off about 1/4 of the top of the garlic head. Place cut-side up on a piece of foil and drizzle the top of the garlic head with olive oil. Wrap the foil up over the garlic and seal. Place in a small ovenproof dish and roast in the oven until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove and cool to the touch, then squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin. Set aside 2 tablespoons for the mash and refrigerate any remaining garlic for another use.

While the garlic is roasting, peel the parsnips and celery root. Cut in 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces and place in a pot. Pour in the 3 cups chicken stock and add the thyme. Bring the stock to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. If the pan begins to dry out, add more stock or water to prevent the vegetables from scorching.

Discard the thyme sprigs. With a slotted spoon, transfer the root vegetables to the bowl of a food processor. Add the 2 tablespoons roasted garlic, cheese, butter, salt, and black pepper, and process to blend. If too thick or lumpy, add some of the reserved cooking liquid (or more stock) and process to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper if desired. Serve warm, garnished with fresh thyme leaves.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Lynda studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.