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The Root Stuff

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Chef Jon Cropf (inset at far right, pictured with Pete Ambrose at Ambrose Family Farm) bakes turnips, rutabaga, and potatoes in a sinfully smooth cream sauce; photographs (2) by Ruta Elvikyte

January 27, 2016

The Root Stuff
A recipe for Drawing Room chef Jon Cropf’s flavorful turnip gratin


written by Marion Sullivan

Though many resist the peppery taste of turnips and their tops, Drawing Room executive chef Jon Cropf is a longtime fan. “Fifteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the best meal of my life at Zuni Café in San Francisco,” he says. “I was served a dish of roasted turnips with butter, sea salt, and fresh herbs. Since then, I’ve used turnips every season.”

For a local harvest, Cropf turns to Ambrose Family Farm—130 acres on Wadmalaw Island run by Pete Ambrose since 1976. “Pete and his crew take so much pride in the vegetables they grow, and that passion and care show,” Cropf says. Taking those local turnips into his kitchen, the chef ramps up a gratin—traditionally a rich comfort-food marriage of russet potatoes and heavy cream—by using the more flavorful Yukon Gold potatoes and adding the spice and sweetness of turnips and rutabagas. The result is a sure-to-please cold-weather accompaniment to any roasted meat.

Gratin of Turnips, Rutabaga, & Yukon Gold Potatoes
(Serves 6)

2 Tbs. unsalted butter
6 medium turnips, about 1½ lbs.
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes  (about 1½ lbs.), peeled
4 medium rutabagas, about 1½ lbs.
6 cups heavy cream
3½ tsp. kosher salt
1/2 heaping tsp. cracked black pepper
Leaves of fresh sage, optional


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a large rectangular baking dish (10¼ x 7½ x 2¾ inches recommended).

Thoroughly wash the vegetables. Peel the turnips and rutabagas if their skin is thick and fibrous. Slice the vegetables approximately 1/4-inch thick, placing the slices in a bowl of cold water to prevent oxidation. Once all have been sliced, drain them and place in a medium stockpot. Combine the cream, salt, and pepper and add it to the pot. The cream should completely cover the vegetables. Bring the pot to a simmer over low heat. Continue simmering until the vegetables are cooked about halfway through, approximately five to seven minutes.

Strain the vegetables, reserving the cream to finish the gratin. Spread the vegetables out in the baking dish. Pour enough cream over the vegetables to just barely cover them; you may not need all of it. (Any leftover cream can be used for the soup in the following recipe.) Bake the gratin for 45 minutes, or until the top is firm and golden brown. Allow to cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. Scatter sage on top if desired.

For more of Jon Cropf’s turnip recipes, read Chef’s Table here.

And to peruse dozens of recipes from local chefs, click here.