Monday, March 30, 2009

Dark and Light : Turnips

Lyon gets a wave of mystery and crime writers every Spring. Lyon's international crime writers' conference is in full swing and I look around fantasizing about what might be going through the minds of all these clean cut men dressed in black, the ones carrying satchels and strolling through the alleys and stairwells about town. I always let my imagination run wild. Who knows who they really are? Have they always been here? Lyon takes on an altogether more mysterious sheen and I relish every moment. I met with a fascinating author, William Bayer, and we had lunch together. I am reading his work in French since the English version of his books are not readily available here. Apparently it always rains during the Quais du Polar in Lyon, and this year was no exception, but I think it was meant to be that way. We enjoyed an afternoon walk nonetheless.

The booksellers are doing brisk business, since it really is time to venture out and try harder to bask in the relative warmth mother nature is mustering up at the moment. Now is the time to celebrate a mystery on a café terrace. This weekend, on the quai St. Antoine, we see that the oyster mushrooms are flourishing, as well as the coldhouse radishes. These hearty reminders of the sweet tender beauty to come ring like church bells on a chilly morning.

In the kitchen, now seems a good a time as ever to focus one last time on the nice baby-smooth winter turnips that are looking good at the producer's stands. They're sweeter than ones that have been stored, and are good for eating on their own. A glance into uses of turnips on French restaurant menus shows either simmering with legumes or a tendency to capitalize on the sweet - to caramelize the root itself, or pick up on that theme by pairing them with a rich maillard effect - roast or seared meats. Some simple ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:

Turnip purée served alongside roasted duck.
A cocotte of langoustine simmered with radishes and turnips might be good right now, considering the radishes.
A sirloin steak served with glazed turnips.
Pepper seasoned steak (mignonette) with young turnips and anchovies.
A golden baked turnip cake to serve with meats.
Spit roasted pigeon served with turnip "saurkraut", its legs stuffed with dates and chorizo.
Pressed foie gras terrine served with caramelized turnips.
Charcuterie served over baked shredded turnips.
Beef sirloin served with tender slow cooked orange-seasoned turnips.
Pan seared foie gras with cabbage root and turnip caramel.

Why not keep your eye out for the late winter turnips? This time of year it's easy to ignore them, but the winter varieties are very good.



Blogger Jann said...

What wonderful tips and beautiful photos~the mushrooms are very enticing.....oh to bite into some of those sweet radishes!

3:31 AM, April 01, 2009  
Anonymous Dillon said...

I'm a big fan of the leaves as well as the root. Esp a gratin of blanched leaves served with a hunk of poached gamon or veal shank.
Braised in olive oil with lot's of garlic, tomatoes and chickpeas or with pasta- blanched leaves tossed and heated through some dry chilli, crushed garlic and olive oil.
That Lyon've captured beautifully.

3:50 AM, April 01, 2009  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hello Jann & Dillon. Thanks for the great tips about the greens, Dillon. I will certainly keep this in mind.

10:34 AM, April 01, 2009  
Anonymous Doug said...

A friend of ours directed us to your blog the other day after hearing about it on the radio in Switzerland and we wish we had found it sooner! My wife and I are both from the US and we have been living in the 6eme in Lyon since last August. Sadly, we will be leaving in the end of June, but we would love to contact you to learn more about Lyon's greatest secrets for gourmands like us!

12:40 AM, April 02, 2009  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Doug! Bummer that you're leaving so soon - but guess what? You have SPRING yet to discover! Make sure you do contact me!

9:47 AM, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Angela said...

I adore your blog. Every time I visit, I feel completely at home. It brings me joy to see the world through your eyes. The turnips look amazing! I love the idea of glazing them and serving with the sirloin. That's so funny about the crime writers in Lyon. Cheers!

2:03 PM, April 02, 2009  
Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

Hi Lucy,
What a beautiful blog you have and so "tasty" too! This is my first visit. I don't have time to linger but I will be back in a few days.

Thanks for sharing...

9:57 PM, April 02, 2009  
Anonymous Christine said...

William Bayer is also the husband of Paula Wolfert.

3:44 AM, April 03, 2009  
Blogger L Vanel said...

In fact, my introduction to him was through Paula Wolfert, who let me know he was coming to town. He has won many awards here in France for his writing, and had quite a following at the conference. Not to mention that he is a great conversationalist. I had a great time.

12:47 PM, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous Cynthia in France said...

I'm so happy to have found your blog. I live in Chambery, France so I'm almost your neighbor. I'm still learning how to cook French but I do manage to put a couple of recipes on my blog among the zillion 'life in France' videos. I will be browsing your blog more for some insights into cooking French. It's really a beautiful blog. Congrats and a bientot! Cynthia in France

7:39 PM, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Stash said...


Japanese turnips are due in soon at USGM.

While I usually don't cook meat much at home, some of these ideas have started some wheels turning.

Thanks Lucy.

9:04 PM, May 01, 2009  

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