Dad and I would walk down to the French Market nearly every day to shop for fresh ingredients for that night’s supper. This was back in the late 1950’s, early 60’s. It was a delightful ritual because I got to spend time with my dad and listen to the conversations with neighbors and shop owners. We’d usually stop off at a local bar on the way for Dad to whet his whistle. Everybody in the neighborhood knew and admired Sunshine Blackwater.
Our daily trip was necessitated by the fact that we didn’t have an icebox. Actually, we did have an icebox, but it was stuffed with beer – the only item Dad deemed worthy of buying ice for. We wouldn’t have a refrigerator until the mid 60’s after he retired from the military and got a second job, what they called double-dipping at that time.
Dad loved potatoes. Ate them nearly every day. A meal wasn’t complete with potatoes and bread. Occasionally, he’d switch things up if the mood struck, or the potatoes at the market looked funky, or at the end of the month when pennies were few. That’s when he’d buy penny-a-pound rutabaga.
Rutabaga has gotten a bad rap. Probably, because most people don’t know what they are or how they are produced. Seems, years ago Swedish botanist Gaspard Bauhin had the brilliant idea of crossing cabbage with a turnip. He called the outcome rotabagge, Swedish for short stumpy root. I suspect that my Swedish/Sioux father fancied the fact that this Brassica family member was invented in Sweden.
I preferred rutabaga mash to potatoes because it was sweeter. Not as sweet as sweet potatoes, but sweeter than Russets.
Back to today. We found fresh rainbow trout on sale today at the market, which immediately reminded me of my childhood days. Rutabaga mash popped into my head as a refreshing change from our typical potato mash.
Rutabagas are bowling ball density compared to a potato. Take greater care when cutting it up. Knife skills include careful placement of hands and fingers. Nobody wants to eat bloody food, particularly these days. It takes substantially more effort to cut through a rutabaga than a potato or finger. Round items tend to roll when you try to drive a knife through them. Cut the ends off the rutabaga first. That gives you a flat surface to assault the rest of beast. Cut it in half. Rotate the halves onto their flat surface and cut them in half. This brings it down to manageable pieces that are easier to cut without maiming yourself. Not looking for speed. Looking to walk away with all appendages still attached.
Cut them into small pieces. They are dense. They cook faster if they are smaller. Pop them, gently, into a pan of water heading toward boil. Once boiling commences, turn the burner down a little so it isn’t boiling over and starting a fire.
Test pieces with a fork to judge if they’re done. The fork should glide easily into the largest pieces. At that point, they are ready to drain.
Toss a full stick of margarine (butter) into the pot and return the drained, steaming rutabagas to the pot. Use a masher or handheld mixer to blend while adding just enough stock (chicken, seafood, or veggie) to the mash. Too stock much produces soup.
Now that the mash is well on its way, I’ve decided to glaze the rainbow trout with orange-ginger sauce that I keep in the fridge. I make make large quantities of my sauce out of a combination of sugar, vinegar, ginger, naturally brewed soy sauce, and orange juice and orange peel. Proportions of ingredients vary according to taste. Experiment with smaller batches until you find the optimum. Boil it down. strain through cheesecloth, return to the pot and thicken with corn starch. The sauce will last for a long time in the refrigerator.
I’m coating the flesh side of the rainbow trout in the sauce, then allowing it to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Place the rainbow trout skin side up on aluminum foil that has been greased with non-stick spray, Crisco, or vegetable oil. Bake for 6 minutes. Flip the filet over and coat with more orange-ginger glaze.
Bake until filet are flaky. Fork ’em to test.
Serve with mash and watch your guests marvel at the incredible flavors. The only problem is: they’ll popping in at dinner time more often!