Half of the cookbooks in my house are out. They’re opened to enticing recipes and stuffed with paper bookmarks. My spouse and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and our imaginations are running wild. Thankfully, we’ll have some help from guests with crucial dishes.
Since the early modern recipe books that I’m researching are from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, they do not dwell on Thanksgiving in the same way that they celebrate holidays like Christmas or even seasonal changes associated with planting and harvest. These recipe books show the slow importation and integration of ingredients from the Americas such as chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes, rice, and, of course, sugar, but you won’t find cranberry sauce or pecan pie. These family manuscripts do, however, include many dishes that would be welcome on a Thanksgiving table. I’ve been looking back over recipes on this site for carrot pudding, caraway buns, macaroni cheese, and stewed peas that will compliment the yams, green beans, and turkey.
This turnip and carrot side dish that I found in Lettice Pudsey recipe book, now Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a.450, fits the bill. Pudsey includes the date 1675 in her cookbook and the recipes in it are a range of late seventeenth-century favorites. These savory and flavorful root vegetables make a delicious dish to be served with roast meat or on its own.
For a ffridays dish of meat : /
tack turnipes whit & cleane washed; & if you pleas a
carriot or tow amongst them ffinely minced: putt them
into a dish with butter uppone a chafing dish of coles: then
beatt seauen or eight Egges togather very well: & stire them
with the turnipes until the beegin to harden: & thereto
putt uiniger & peper : /
Turnips sometimes get bad press, but they’re packed with flavor and grow wonderfully throughout Europe and Asia where they have been cultivated for ages. Deborah Madison’s brilliant cookbook Vegetable Literacy and my spouse’s roasting efforts have taught me to love these humble root vegetables. Vinegar elevates this dish and harmonizes the flavors. The butter and eggs compliment the turnip’s sharp flavors and the carrots add sweetness. To learn more about how our carrots became sweet and orange, listen to this fascinating episode of the Gastropod podcast that blew my mind earlier this month.
I roughly halved the original recipe to make this in a small casserole dish. This dish can easily be prepared in advance. It reheats beautifully in an oven or microwave.
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1t apple cider vinegar (or other light vinegar)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Prepare a buttered casserole dish.
Clean and peel the turnips. Cut them in half and then in pieces. The number of pieces will depend on the size of your turnips, but the resulting pieces should be bite size.
Clean the carrots. Peel them if you prefer to do so. Cut into rounds 1/4 inch thick.
Put the vegetables in the prepared dish. Season with pepper and salt. Dollop the butter on top of the vegetables. Pour the eggs over the dish evenly and allow to settle amongst the vegetables.
Bake for about 50 minutes until the eggs are starting to set and the vegetables soften. Add the vinegar. Cook about 20 minutes more until the dish is golden and bubbling and the vegetables are tender when poked with a fork.
This is comfort food: rich, flavorful, sweet, savory, and satisfying. The eggs and butter mollify the turnips without disguising their distinct tang. Carrots and vinegar add brightness to a dish that would otherwise be stodgy. These turnips and carrots would stand up alongside roast beef, a cooked chicken, pork sausages, or even, roast turkey.