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Jennifer Peters apprenticed under the passionate Bruno Marti at La Belle Auberge in Ladner where, if she didn’t prepare a dish to his satisfaction, he’d admonish her: “Why don’t you love the carrots? You can’t overcook a carrot and tell me you care.” It’s a lesson that Peters brings to her kitchen at Raincity Grill: only by learning to cook humble foods perfectly can you master more complicated techniques and ingredients. Even the oft-overlooked parsnip can be a showstopper when it’s perfectly prepared with warm, complementary flavours.
How to Buy First, Peters says, parsnips should never be limp. Look for medium-sized roots with ivory-coloured skin and a white interior. They should have the same feel as a carrot: firm, dense, and heavy for their size. A fresh parsnip smells richly of earth, with a surprising sweetness and a subtle hint of parsley. For Raincity, Peters gets them delivered from Pemberton’s North Arm Farm; when shopping for herself she finds them at small grocery stores that sell local produce.
How to cook Elevate humble parsnips to guest-worthy status by pan-roasting them with a honey-horseradish glaze (which also adds sweet-and-sour warmth to poultry and pork). To make the glaze, heat butter in a pan with a finely diced shallot, a bay leaf, a small bunch of fresh thyme, a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and a few tablespoons of honey. Allow the glaze to thicken slightly. In a separate pan, brown two tablespoons of butter, then add peeled parsnips cut roughly into same-sized pieces. Cook until they’re golden and tender all the way through. Add slices of apple or pear and a handful of walnuts; sprinkle fresh parsley over the parsnips and salt to taste. Discard the bay and thyme, and add a few tablespoons of finely grated horseradish to the glaze. Spoon dollops of the glaze over the parsnips until fully coated, then serve.