© 2024
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Turnip latkes from a chef in Orleans

Chef Tyler Hadfield of the Rail in Orleans holding a plate of turnip latkes.
Chef Tyler Hadfield of the Rail in Orleans holding a plate of turnip latkes.

It’s that time of year again—we’re deep into storage vegetable season and I’m looking for recipe inspiration. Turnips, in particular, I find tricky to get excited about, but recently, I spoke with Tyler Hadfield of the Rail in Orleans and he told me that if you cook them right, turnips can be even tastier than potatoes.

"Turnips are a little more botanical, they have more of a vegetable flavor. They also have a great texture. I’m not a big fan of potatoes. Potatoes to me taste very bland, very watery, very earthy like dirt."

Still, he said, turnips sometimes need potatoes. That sizzling is the sound of a turnip potato latke cooking, and Tyler told me that while the flavor comes mostly from the turnips, using half potatoes is important for holding everything together.

"If you go 100 percent turnip and don’t use potatoes at all, there isn’t enough starch in the product for it to hold together. So you peel a couple of potatoes, a couple of turnips and then you grate them on a box grater on the largest hole, same thing with some onion, and then you drain all the liquid out of that, the onions you drain them just right into the sink or the trash, the potatoes and turnips you actually want to drain them into a small bowl and them let that liquid settle and all of the starch is going to end up sticking to the bottom of the bowl."

If you’ve ever saved potato starch this way it looks almost exactly like cornstarch mixed with a little bit of water—it's bright white and very sticky, and it’s also heavy, so after it settles it's easy to just pour off the rest of the water from the starch.

"Once you have that starch separated, you can crack a couple eggs and whip that all together, and that’s going to make up your liquid for the batch. And then I added a little bit of, fresh cracked black pepper, some kosher salt, a little bit of onion powder and garlic powder just to kind of bolster the flavor there. And then, about a half a cup of flour for this batch size."

Then, Tyler says, it’s time to mix it all together and get the latkes on the griddle.

"So I have some clarified butter. That is the oil of choice for breakfast. Unless, of course, you want some bacon fat. So I'm just going to pour about one ounce down, and then I'm going to take a scoop of the latke batter, about two ounces here, and put it right on top of the oil. And then with a grill, spatula or a spoon, you just kind of want to squeeze it as flat as you can get it."

This is important for those crispy latke edges and for cooking the grated turnips and potatoes fully through without burning them.

It smells amazing.

"I'm sure it's mostly butter and onions. Smell-wise right now. And then I'm just going to poke under. Just like you would for a regular pancake to see if it's done."

After about two minutes of sizzling on each side on the hot flattop griddle it is and we’re ready to eat—except, it needs some kind of a sauce.

I ask Tyler about his thoughts on dipping sauces.

"For this dish, the first year that we did it, we used our homemade apple butter, and I made a whipped Greek yogurt, with some cinnamon and some nutmeg in there. So we went with the sweet approach. And then in subsequent years, we actually have done a Canadian bacon, a couple of poached eggs and then some hollandaise sauce—a turnip latke eggs benedict, which is great by all accounts."

Eggs benedict is one of my all time favorite breakfast dishes, and I had to find out if a turnip latke could make it even better. The answer is yes, actually it can—and there’s still plenty of winter left to try it.

Turnip Latkes

This recipe is adapted from a spoken recipe shared by chef Tyler Hadfield of the Rail in East Orleans. The latkes are great on their own, and even better as part of your favorite eggs benedict recipe—just swap them in for the English muffins!

2 large Idaho potatoes 4 small purple top (or better yet, Eastham!) turnips
1 small to medium size white onion
3 eggs

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
onion powder, to taste
1/2 cup flour
clarified butter or bacon fat

Peel the potatoes and turnips. Shred them over a plate or large dish (you need to save the liquid) using a box grater on the largest hole. When all the turnips and potatoes are grated, put them in a large bowl and cover them with a few cups of cool water. After a few minutes strain the potatoes and turnips, reserving the liquid. Squeeze them in your hands or a cloth over the strainer to get out as much liquid as possible. Set aside this liquid for about 20 minutes to let the starch settle to the bottom of the bowl
Meanwhile, grate the onion, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. You can discard this onion liquid. Whisk together the eggs in a large bowl. Check on your bowl of potato-turnip liquid; it's ready when you can see a white mass of starch settled at the bottom. Pour off the liquid slowly and carefully, making sure to keep the starch. Whisk this starch into the eggs and add the grated turnips, potatoes, and onions. Season with pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. Work in the flour. If the mixture feels too dry, add an egg; if it feels too wet, add a little bit of flour.

Warm up a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Grease it with a bit of clarified butter or bacon fat, then scoop about 2 ounces of the latke batter into the hot pan. Using a grill press or spatula, squeeze the latke as flat as you can get it-—this helps it develop crispy edges. Cook in a hot pan for roughly 2 minutes per side; serve hot.

An avid locavore, Elspeth lives in Wellfleet and writes a blog about food. Elspeth is constantly exploring the Cape, Islands, and South Coast and all our farmer's markets to find out what's good, what's growing and what to do with it. Her Local Food Report airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Morning Edition and 5:45pm on All Things Considered, as well as Saturday mornings at 9:30.