Undercover Veggies Transcript

The Kitchen

GUEST: Martha, Jr.

[MJ and AB are sitting at the kitchen table]

AB: So MJ, how's your steak?
MARTH, JR.: Definitive, Uncle. You certainly have a way with Bos taurus.
AB: Oh, well. Yeah, I guess I do. But hey, listen, you've got to eat your vegetables though. I promised my sister, your mother, that you would.
MJ: I don't like vegetables, except for potatoes. I love potatoes.
AB: Well, what about say, maybe ...
MJ: Is it a vegetable?
AB: Well, yeah. But you could really just try them ...
MJ: Is it a potato?
AB: Well, no. But what I had in mind ...
MJ: Then I won't eat it.
AB: MJ, that's just crazy talk.

MJ: De gustibus non est disputandum.

There is no
accounting for taste.

AB: Varitatio delectat.

Change pleases

MJ: Vulpes pilum mutat, non mores.

A fox may change its skin but not its character.

AB: Well, okay, that's true. But still, what if I told you that I could make you vegetables you would ask for three times a day?
MJ: How much?
AB: Vegetables?
MJ: Cash. I've got a C-note that says it's not going to happen.
AB: Marsha, Junior, where did you get $100?
MJ: From Chess Club winnings. Care to match it?
AB: You're on.

MJ: Monstra mihi pecuniam!

Show me the money.

AB: Sh ... Sh ... Show you the money? I don't need to ... I don't have it on me right now, okay? But I'll have it by tomorrow morning. You can be sure of that.
MJ: Fine. I'm going to my room to check on my portfolio. Goodnight, Uncle.
AB: Goodnight, sweetheart.
MJ: Goodnight.
AB: You sleep tight now. Don't let those bed bugs bite. Hah hah hah hah hah hah.

    Little wretch doesn't realize that vegetables, especially those containing considerable sugar reserves, can be secretly stashed inside unassuming applications like stealthy little health bombs. All it takes is a little cunning, the proper produce, and some strategic techniques. Oh yes, MJ, before the sun sets on another day, you'll be calling your veggies ...

[Good Eats Theme]

The Kitchen

    By and large, childrenand, well, many adults for that matterdo not appreciate vegetables. That's because they contain bitter compounds. And regardless of the culture into which children are born, well, babies just don't do bitter, okay? Japanese babies, African babies, Native American babies, Indian babies, Chinese babies, Mexican babies, it doesn't matter what kind of baby, they all loathe bitter and love sweets.
    Why? Because sweet means sugar; sugar means calories; and calories means energy. Bitter foods on the other hand often contain alkalines, okay. And those are often found in ...

The Garage

    [shows some chemicals in the garage] ... poison. Prescription drugs, industrial cleaners, petroleum products, and whatever that is. All bitter, all deadly if used incorrectly. But here's the thing. Some bitter flavors are, by adults at least, seen as highly desirable indeed. Consider your morning Joe. Did you know caffeine is actually considered the gold standard for bitterness, hmm? Dark chocolate, bitter, is an ugly truth but lovely. I'll keep this for later. And then, of course, there's bitters [beer], which despite being the poster drink for bitterness, well, it's bloody well irresistible. And let's not forget good old fashioned green vegetables, which are bitter, but good and good for you.
    You see, as we mature, most of us find that bitterness brings added dimension to sweet or salty flavors. Kind of like a final note that turns a simple chord into something a little more interesting. This appreciation, however, is acquired. So we adults should probably cut the kids some slack like Mary Poppins, who knew full well that a spoonful of sugar helps the bitterness go down.

The Root Cellar

    This doesn't mean that we have to add sugar. It just means we need to reach for veggies that already contain plenty of it. Now carrots contain some sugar. But you know, kids already eat these things. So getting them to eat more is no great victory. Beets contain a considerable amount of sweetness. But all that bright red, it's like a warning light. Veggies ahead! Beware! Nah, we need something that's sweet, but healthy and stealthy at the same time. And that's why I think we need to reach for the parsnip.
    Now Flemish weavers escaping religious persecution in Spain probably introduced these strange cousins of parsley to England and Ireland in the 1580s where they served as a major source of starch until the faster growing and more, well, flavor-neutral potato made its Old World debut.
    Now unlike a potato, parsnips are very, very distinctive in flavor. They're nutty but savory, sweet, a little meaty. It's, well, they're just interesting. Now this particular model, it's a Javelin, one of the most common found in U.S. markets, though many other versions can be found in farmers markets in northern climates.
    Now first, I am going to make MJ a breakfast she cannot refuse, chock full of calcium and potassium, compliments of the parsnip. Hah hah hah hah.

At one point in history, it was believed that eating
old parsnips would cause permanent madness.

    When dealing with the hardened vege-phobe, one must occasionally resort to subterfuge. Consider this muffin. Who would suspect that this innocent looking breakfast bread could conceal healthful vegetation? No one. That's what makes it such a potent tool.
    Now you could fill this thing up with carrots or rutabagas, or celery root for that matter. But since they're more on the starchy sweet side, parsnips are perfect for baked goods. Now you're going to need four medium to large specimens. And if they are less than one and a half inches across the top, odds are good you'll be able to grate them, peel and all. Now in doing so, I prefer to use a box grater rather than, say, a food processor, because I want the option of ditching the very inner core which can be woody in older models.
    Now ultimately, we're after 10 ounces by weight, about three cups. [starts grating, but soon becomes frustrated] Oooohhh. Somewhere I've got some "L" brackets from the hardware store. Ah, here they are. I'll just scoot those under the board and place the grater handle thusly. There.

Be sure to weigh parsnips after grating, as the roots come in a wide variety of sizes.

    [at the oven] Next, one ounce, that's a quarter cup, of sliced almonds go into a pie pan in the middle of the oven, which you will then set for 375 degrees. [starts the almonds in a cold oven] In about 20 minutes or by the time the oven's good and hot, they will be beautiful, brown, and delicious. 1 Ounce Sliced Almonds

375 Degrees

Italian pigs destined for prosciutto are often fattened on parsnips.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    Ladies and gentlemen, let's meet the muffin dry team: eight and a half ounces by weight of all-purpose flour, half a teaspoon of kosher salt, one teaspoon of baking powder, three-quarters of a teaspoon of baking soda, and half a teaspoon of nutmegfreshly grated, please. Now we're going to take these for a spin around our friendly neighborhood food processor. 8½ Ounces All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Baking Powder
¾ tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Freshly Grated

THING: [offers AB a sifter]

    Sure we could use a sifter. But this is a lot faster, and it'll do a better job of aerating the dry goods, which will make introducing the wet team that much easier.
    Now you'll probably notice we're using both baking powder and soda. That's because we're making a quick bread, and all quick breads need to contain a balance of acidic and base ingredients in order to achieve proper lift. We can therefore assume that the wet team will contain an acidic ingredient.

    Speaking of the wet team, we've got three quarters of a cup of whole milk yogurt. There's the acidic. Two ounces, that's a quarter cup, of vegetable oil. Eight ounces of sugar. Yes, sugar always counts in baking as a wet ingredient. And three large eggs. And just whisk this together thoroughly. There. Now we can work in the secret ingredient, parsnips. And just mix until they are thoroughly moistened. There. ¾ Cup Whole Milk Yogurt
2 Ounces Vegetable Oil
8 Ounces Sugar
3 Large Eggs
10 Ounces Grated Parsnips

    Now the dry ingredients, and the goal here is to get this mixed together as quickly as possible with as few strokes as possible. Why? Well, overbeating can result in something called tunneling. You see, as you mix longer and longer and longer, water and wheat protein come together to form gluten, that famously elastic and plastic protein matrix that makes yeast-leavened breads possible. The problem is, in a muffin, pockets of gluten hold bubbles in, rather than allowing them to lift. Eventually, these bubbles come together in strange, snake-like tunnels, a sure sign of an overworked batter. Do not let this happen to you. When the batter just starts to come together, just walk away. Walk away, don't worry about a little bit of powder left in there, it'll be okay.
    Now go get yourself a disher. That is a spring-loaded scoop in the two and a half ounce, that's about a third of a cup, range. This should do nicely.
    First, we're going to need a little lubrication. Even a non-stick muffin pan will stick. So a bit of a spray lube, and then fill 'er up. Perfect. And the almonds go on top, very nice.
    [at the oven] All right, into the middle of the oven. Now we are looking for a finished internal temperature of 210 degrees. That should take about 20 minutes. Oh, and always remember, you want to rotate the pan halfway through the cooking.

Baking in dark pans facilitates better browning.

    When your muffins are finished, it is important to get them out of the pan as soon as possible. Otherwise, the bottom crusts can get nastily mushy. Of course, they're probably going to stick at least a little around the edges. So I like to run just a small offset spatula—you could use a butter knifearound the edges to make sure that they are completely free. Then I place a wire cooling rack on top and flip the whole thing over. With any luck, they will all come out. Ah, would you look at that.

Store muffins in a ziptop bag in the refrigerator for about
a week or freeze and they will keep for 3 months.

AB: So how is my favorite niece this morning?
MJ: Considering my uncle sent me to bed half-fed, I'm lucky to still be alive.
AB: Well, let's get you fed, then. Look, I've got muffins, fresh from the oven.
MJ: Whoa, they smell great. I thought for sure they'd be, you know, turnip pancakes, or spinach yogurt parfait or something like that.
AB: Hah hah hah. Those are all fine ideas but no. Just warm, beautiful, sweet muffins.
MJ: May I have one?
AB: Dig in. Go ahead, kid.
MJ: Thanks.
AB: Sure.
MJ: Mmm, sweet. Mom makes muffins like this, but they're tough and have these funny holes in them that look like worms have been crawling in and out. What do you call these?
AB: I call them ... Money Muffins.
MJ: May I have another one, please?
AB: Sure, take all you want, but remember, you do have your chess match this morning.
MJ: Oh, that's right. Could you pack me a little lunch like a sandwich and some chips?
AB: I'll take care of everything. You just go get dressed. Go on, go on. I'll take care of everything. Uncle Alt is here. Go ahead, take this with you. Hah hah hah.

    You heard it. She asked for chips by name. Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!

    Whenever I fry chips of any type, I use my five-quart Dutch oven, and, of course, a fry thermometer to keep me honest. Two quarts of pure peanut oil go in over high heat until I bring it to 375 degrees. Although I usually prepare this little edible trick using sweet potatoes, their potent pigment would almost certainly expose my plot. So I'm going to stick with the starchy, yet stealthy parsnip. Which, because of its relatively low moisture content, makes an excellent chip. 2 Quarts Pure Peanut Oil
    Now since the interior core of some older parsnips can be woody, I'm just going to remove strips with a vegetable peeler. Once you've got one parsnip's worth, move them to the fry oil. The last thing you want to do is crowd this pan. There. And I just let these cook for one to one and a half minutes. 1 Pound Parsnips

For a stronger flavor fry with olive oil, but not extra virgin.

    Now when they turn just golden, you want to evacuate them from the fat before they actually turn brown, okay? And a spider, definitely the best tool for the job. So just scoop, and let them drain for a few seconds, get the excess oil off, and then move them over to a draining rig. I like a sheet pan / newspaper / cooling rack combo.

    Once you have finished the entire batch, go ahead and give them some kosher salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper if you're so inclined.

Kosher Salt & Freshly
    Ground Black Pepper

Parsnips are an excellent source of the B vitamin folate,
as well as, vitamin C and dietary fiber.

The Kitchen

MJ: [enters the kitchen from outside] Thanks for the ride, Mrs. Johnson. Bye. Hi, Uncle Alton.
AB: Hi, MJ. How was the chess match?
MJ: I got first place.
AB: Hey, that's my girl. That's the way to go. Mmm, how did you like lunch?
MJ: Great. Those chip things tasted a little different, though.
AB: Different, how?
MJ: I don't know, kind of sweet and nutty. Can you tell Mom where you got them so she can by them for me?
AB: Absolutely.
MJ: Great. Oh, and don't think for a moment that I've forgotten our little wager. Just because it appears you've given up doesn't mean you don't have to pony up.
AB: I would never even think of weaseling out of a sporting obligation. Why, that would be like breaking a contract, wouldn't it?
MJ: Indeed.
AB: Hah hah hah hah. Hey, congratulations!

    Let's step outside for a moment.


GUEST: George Boyhan, Ph.D. Horticulturist

    Now you notice she said sweet, not once, but twice now, okay? Parsnips can deliver an amazing amount of sweetness, but only if they spend the winter in the ground. Why is that? Well, to find out, we would need to find a horticulturist. And luckily, I have one right here.

AB: Dr. George Boyhan, tell me, why will my parsnips be sweeter after they winter in the ground?
GEORGE BOYHAN: Well, there's a phenomenon, Alton, called cold sweetening. There's a lot of vegetables that have storage organs like potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, that store energy as starch. And above 50 degrees, as this starch is converted into simpler sugars, it's used in respiration. Below 50 degrees, you have an accumulation of these sugars as respiration slows down. And this, from the plant's perspective, is a good thing, because the accumulation of sugar prevents the formation of ice crystals and freeze injury. It acts a lot like an antifreeze.
AB: Antifreeze. I like that.
GB: From our perspective, when you've harvested them after they've gone through this period of cold, they taste sweeter.
AB: Great, so plant's in the ground, it stores its energy as starch, but it converts it to simple sugars to do its business. That business slows down when it gets cold, so the sugar builds up. That sugar, of course, will move into the cells and create kind of a syrup that acts like an antifreeze. And then we cut into it and it tastes good.
GB: That's correct.
AB: You eat your vegetables, George?
GB: Yes.
AB: Good man.

Due to their increasing popularity parsnips are now available year round.

The Kitchen

    And now for the coup de grace, a device of such delicious cunning that I almost feel guilty springing it on the unsuspecting lass. Almost.
    Now root vegetables are known for their ability to work and play well with fruits, especially fruits in the rose family such as quinces, apples, and pears. Pears are especially potent when paired with parsnips. And speaking of, I always have an emergency supply. [shows his emergency supply hi up on a shelf] HAH!

    My plan is to make a sauce like an apple sauce, nice, sweet, and chunky, only with no apples. We're going to use parsnips and pears instead. So one pound of parsnips, that's three to four roots, which will be peeled. And we're going to take a couple of pears. You could use Bartletts, Bosc, anything that you really like. Cut off the ends, and then peel those as well. There, and just split those in half. And then I like to get out the seeds with a little melon baller or a teaspoon like this. You waste less meat that way. There. Just scoop around and it comes out pretty easily. Now these we will cut down into one-inch chunks. Just split it and slice through. There. Now all of these hunks and chunks are going to go into a large microwave safe container. And cut the parsnips like that. [slices the parsnips]  Good, perfect. 1 Pound Parsnips, Peeled &
    Cut Into 1-Inch Pieces

1 Pound Pears, Peeled &
    Cut Into 1-Inch Pieces

    Now for the wet team. We're going to introduce one and a half cups of freshly squeezed orange juice. You know, squeezing's half the fun. One-quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom. This will really confuse the little booger. Three tablespoons of maple syrup. And don't try passing off that fake pancake syrup business, okay? I want the real thing. Grade B amber would be especially nice. I'm going to need a pinch of ground clove, and I usually just throw one or two in this little mortar and pestle and grind it up. It takes like ten seconds. One teaspoon of the zest of the aforementioned oranges, and just a pinch of kosher salt to help marry the flavors. 1½ Cups Freshly Squeezed
    Orange Juice
¼ tsp. Ground Cardamom
3 Tbs. Maple Syrup
Pinch Freshly Ground Clove
1 tsp. Orange Zest
Pinch Kosher Salt

    Now, place the lid on your vessel being careful to leave one corner open so steam can get out, and microwave on high for ten minutes.

'Fair words butter no parsnips', was a popular proverb back in 1639.

The Kitchen

    All right, our pear and parsnip pairing has been in the microwave on high for ten minutes. Time to test for doneness. Now the chunks should be tender enough to mash, but not so gooshy that they, well, goosh. And be careful taking off the lid too. There still could be some steam in there. Let's give it a squeeze. Good.

    There, now the microwave has kind of an uncanny ability to flatten out the high notes in the flavors of fruit. You want to bring that back. So we're going to add some acidity. Now if this were just apple sauce, I'd probably use apple cider vinegar, but it's parsnips and pears. So one tablespoon of lemon juice, and yes, it really does need to be fresh squeezed.

1 Tbs. Freshly Squeezed
    Lemon Juice

    Now as far as getting this to the final consistency, you can use any technology you want, to mangle, mash, or purée. An old school potato mangler will give you a nice rustic chunky kind of action. A hand mixer will smooth things out a little bit and then, of course, an immersion or stick blender will give you a relatively smooth purée.
    There, now either serve this warm or cold, alone, or with ...

AB: [now at the kitchen table, serving MJ] ... pork chops.
MJ: And?
AB: And, oh, and pear and [coughing, to cover up the word] parsnip sauce.
MJ: Okay, I like fruit. [tastes] Mmm, those are the best pears I've ever had. So ...
AB: Nutty?
MJ: Yeah, kind of ...
AB: Peppery?
MJ: Yeah, sort of like ...
AB: Parsley?
MJ: Isn't parsley a vegetable?
AB: No, no, no, no, no. Parsley is an herb.
MJ: Okay, can I have some more?
AB: Absolutely, you can have more. Here, dig in, and have all you want, young lady.
MJ: Well, it's been a day and I haven't asked for one single vegetable. Ready to pay up?
AB: Well, I'll tell you what, MJ, you eat your dinner, and then we'll deal with all those finances, okay? Hah hah hah hah hah.

    The moral of the story, never bet against a parsnip.
    Well, I hope we've inspired you to give this Old World culinary chameleon the chance it so richly deserves. Not only is its flavor and nutritional profile unlike any other tap root on earth, its versatility places it high in the pantheon of... Well, you know. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a little debt to collect.

AB: [brandishing a $100 bill] So MJ, about this money ...

Front Door

GUESTS: Policeman #1 & #2

AB: Good evening, officers.
POLICEMAN #1: Sir, there's been a report of underage gambling going on at this residence.
AB: Oh, bother!

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010