Sometimes the best way to explore an unfamiliar ingredient is to pair it with those you already know well. A cross between cabbage and turnips, rutabagas are a curious, old-fashioned seeming root. Unless you like dirty-white, asymmetrical vegetables, they are short on aesthetic appeal. Once cooked, their starchy flesh blooms into its signature golden hue and a decidedly more potato-like fluff than any of their turnip cousins.
With sweet and bitter notes to their flavor profile (the dominance of either quality dependent upon growing conditions), rutabagas benefit from balancing agents, especially butter and cream. This subtle bisque makes deft use of rutabaga's silky texture along with many items available on market shelves right now. Try finishing it with chopped pastured bacon, slivers of raw arugula or Tuscan kale, or, for something truly decadent, picked Dungenness crab meat and a swirl of melted butter.
About 1-1/2 pounds rutabagas
2 tablespoons butter, plus more to finish
1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced
2 tart apples, cored and sliced
1 small orange-fleshed sweet potato and/or 2 orange carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
Freshly ground white pepper
2. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the leek, apples, sweet potato, rutabagas, and herbes de Provence. Season with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, add 1 cup of the stock, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the remaining 4 cups of stock, bring to a simmer, re-cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetable pieces.
3. Let the soup cool slightly, then puree in blender and return it to the pot. Add the half-and-half and heat through, but avoid bringing back to a simmer. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Stir in a little extra butter. The soup will be thick, creamy, and delicate. Serve hot.
Based on a recipe from Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison.