There’s something so appealing about a pile of winter vegetables. Maybe it’s the mix of colors: orange, yellow, white and purple carrots, green striped Delicata squash, rosy rutabaga and green Gilfeather turnip contrasting with brown potatoes, white celery root and parsnips. Maybe it’s their compactness, these solid, densely textured vegetables. Or maybe the appeal is the anticipation of their flavors, richly sweet carrots, parsnips and squash, pungent rutabaga and turnip, earthy potatoes, nutty celery root, delicious individually but even better mixed together.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways of mixing the colors, textures and flavors of these winter vegetables. Mashing is one technique, creating smooth purees or chunky blends from two or more cooked vegetables. Hash is another, dicing vegetables into small, same-sized cubes and roasting or sautéing them together so that the pieces crisp and the flavors blend. Mash and hash both make comfort food for this time of year.
Last weekend, a friend invited us for dinner. She was serving slow-braised beef and we agreed that some sort of mash would be a great accompaniment. Keeping it simple, I settled on potatoes and rutabaga, peeling, quartering and steaming the potatoes, peeling, cutting into chunks and boiling the rutabaga, then mashing the two together with some buttermilk and butter, salt and pepper. The rutabaga gave just the right pungence as well as a pretty yellow tone to the potatoes and the buttermilk added a touch of sharpness.
Another favorite mash combines potatoes, celery root and Delicata squash. With garlic and thyme infused cream and butter, this mash is smooth, richly sweet and beautifully orange.
In contrast to this smooth mash, there’s a chunkier one I first made several years ago, sautéing all the vegetables together in a pot then mashing them into a coarse mix for a pretty side with pork chops and leeks.
I often roast chunks of winter vegetables, but when making hash, I dice the vegetables into smaller cubes. Roasted at 400 or 425 until they are soft and beginning to crisp, they result in a hash that’s perfect as a side dish for pork or lamb. Lately, though, I’ve been pairing winter vegetable hash with eggs, once for dinner and once for breakfast.
I could eat this tasty combination for lunch too. Potatoes alone make a fine hash but hash with rutabaga, turnip, and Delicata squash is three times better.
A few nights ago I turned some leftover winter vegetable hash into a free-form baked pasta dish. Following a recipe that called for broccoli but substituting hash, I tossed boiled and drained pasta and hash together on a sheet pan, spooned ricotta across the mix, sprinkled on a mix of bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest, drizzled on some olive oil and put the pan under the broiler for four or five minutes to warm the ricotta and crisp the crumbs and parmesan. Piled on plates, this pasta and hash made a great dinner.
The variations on mash and hash are endless. Begin with an inspiring pile of winter vegetables and start experimenting.