Piggyback Cooking: Mashed Rutabagas becomes Apple Rutabaga Soup

by Ginny on February 20, 2011

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It’s been a long snowy winter here in Montana, but spring is so close you can almost taste the sweet shelling peas. They’re just around the corner, but we’re not there yet. So before the root vegetables give way to artichokes, asparagus, and tender baby arugula (I can hardly stand the anticipation), let’s come back to the Now, and get to know one of the unsung delights of February’s produce department: Rutabagas. 

Before you “turnip” your nose, give them a try, and you may just find yourself adding some welcome variety to your winter table. But first, we have a couple of things to clear up:

What is Piggyback Cooking? 

Piggyback cooking is making one meal and turning it’s leftovers  into another. For example, make Hungarian Mushroom Soup on Monday, and on Tuesday, do as my friend Emily did, and add some tri tip, toss it with egg noodles, and you’ve got a Hungarian-style beef stroganoff. Yum. That sounds really good.

Piggyback cooking is about economizing resources: our time, our money, and all that went into bringing that head of cabbage to your vegetable crisper. It’s about getting creative, and it’s about not wasting food. All good stuff, right?

What is a Rutabaga? 

That’s a very good question and one that might land you in the middle of a fierce debate. See, rutabagas and turnips get confused with each other an awful lot.  A rutabaga is the love-child of cabbage bred with turnips, and is often called a yellow turnip, or Swede– short for Swedish turnip. Turnips and rutabagas look nearly identical in appearance, both being root vegetables with a purple blush around the top or stem end of the globe. They both show up in markets throughout fall and winter.  The easiest way to differentiate is that Rutabagas are bigger, as in baseball to softball size and weigh up to 2 pounds a piece, whereas turnips are smaller, as in golfball  to racquetball size. Also, turnips have white bottoms with purple tops, while rutabagas have yellowish bottoms with purple tops.

In terms of flavor, turnips and rutabagas are usually not interchangeable. Turnips have a juicy white flesh, especially when young, similar in texture to a radish, but with a sweet flavor that turns peppery as it matures. Rutabagas are consistently sweet in flavor, with a dryer texture, like a less starchy potato that’s yellow in color. Combined with carrots and potatoes they make a deliciously sweet and colorful root mash, a traditional side dish in Sweden and Norway.

Intrigued? Well these two recipes are a great way to give both piggyback cooking and rutabagas a try.

Recipe 1: Mashed Yellow Turnips (Rutabagas) with Crispy shallots

When I came across this recipe my mouth watered with a shameless love for those crispy onions on top of the infamous green bean casserole. After frying up these buttery, sweet, and crispy shallots, it’s a wonder there were any left for the Rutabagas after so much sampling. This recipe was originally published in “The Union Square Cafe Cookbook,” and reprinted in “Barefoot Contessa Family Style,” by Ina Garten– another excellent resource for your own Sunday Dinner Revival. As for the rutabaga mash, the beautiful golden color and nutty sweetness was a lovely departure from plain and heavy mashed potatoes. These make a great accompaniment to roast chicken or pork chops. Click on the above link to check out and print the recipe. Reserve 2 cups of the mashed rutabagas to make the soup below.

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Recipe : Apple Rutabaga Soup with Garam Masala

I like to serve this delicious pureed soup alongside grilled ham and Gruyere sandwiches on multi-grain bread smeared with Dijon mustard. It makes a lovely and satisfying lunch or simple supper. Making and adding your own Garam Masala imparts a definite Wow-factor to this soup, but if short on time, Curry powder or simply dried thyme make acceptable substitutes.


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
  • 2 tart apples, like Granny Smith or Fuji, peeled and cubed
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth (or substitute vegetable broth)
  • 2 cups prepared Mashed Rutabagas (see recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala (see recipe below, or substitute curry powder or dried thyme)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a splash or 2 of half and half or heavy cream (optional)

In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat and saute chopped shallot until soft and translucent. Add chopped apples and saute 3 to 5 minutes more, or until they begin to soften. Add 3 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until apples are very tender. Add mashed turnips, stir to combine, and briefly bring to a boil so that all is thoroughly heated. Add Garam Masala and season with salt and pepper to taste. Blend the soup to a very smooth puree using an immersion or regular blender* (see note).

To finish soup, return to pot, and if necessary, add up to 1 cup more broth and/or half and half or heavy cream  to adjust consistency** (see note). Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, or more Garam Masala if desired. Stir over medium heat until heated through and enjoy!

*When blending hot soup in a regular blender, use caution as the pressure from the steam can cause the lid to blast off, splattering hot soup everywhere. To avoid this, fill the blender no more than half full, pureeing the soup in batches.

**Pureed soups should have a velvety liquid consistency, with a smooth surface yet plenty of body (i.e. mouth-feel). They should be like a creamy bisque, NOT thick like baby food. Add more broth, half and half, or heavy cream, as necessary to adjust consistency, and then taste and readjust seasonings. Keep in mind that dairy adds richness, but can sometimes mute brighter flavors, so use your best judgement in regards to maintaining your desired flavor profile.



Garam Masala

Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend similar to curry powder, but more aromatic and without the strong yellow color of turmeric. Making your own Garam Masala is quick, easy, and contains ingredients you may already have in your spice pantry. Try this incredible spice-blend once and you’ll be searching for ways to use it again and again. This recipe was originally published on Nourish Network.

In a dry skillet  over medium heat toast until fragrant and lightly smoking:

  • 2 tablespoons cumin seed
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 2 – 3 inch cinnamon sticks broken into pieces

Cool and add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Stir to combine and grind to a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder.

Makes approx. 1/2 cup Garam Masala

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