This is what I served to my granny when she came into my restaurant for the first time. I had been cooking professionally for ten years, but Granny never really leaves Locust Grove except for family reunions in the mountains. A few family members said to her, “We’re taking you to Atlanta to eat at Kevin’s restaurant.” I was surprised that she agreed, and I had no idea what to serve her. Something she’d never eaten before? Or one of her favorite recipes? I landed in the middle. I made a dish with ingredients she could easily identify—pork, turnips, and rutabagas—but prepared them in a way that she had never tried before.
The funny part is that when my family got halfway to Atlanta on the night of the dinner, she said, “Wait! We have to turn around and go back. I left something at the house.” Everyone rolled their eyes, saying, “What? We’re not driving a half hour back to the house and then back on the road again to Atlanta.” “Yes, we are,” she insisted. “I made Kevin a pound cake.” That cracked me up. But it shows you the importance of some old Southern traditions. In her mind, my restaurant was like my home. She would never show up to someone’s home for dinner without bringing something for the host. She made them turn the car around and get the pound cake. They were about half an hour late for their reservation. The pound cake was delicious, of course. What did she think of the food I made for her? She was so proud of me; she beamed, “Them is some good rutabagas!”
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Turnips and Rutabagas
Feeds 4 to 6 folks
Pork shoulder steak – 1 thick bone-in steak, about 2 pounds and 2 inches thick
Salt and ground black pepper
Hakurei turnips – 8 golf ball–size or 2 baseball-size, about 8 ounces
Butter – 1 tablespoon
Sweet herb mix – Gather together equal parts fresh celery leaves, parsley leaves, tarragon, and thyme (stems removed). Mince and use about 1 tablespoon.
Rutabaga and turnip puree (see below) – 1 cup, warm
Pickled rutabaga (see below) – about 1 cup
1. Heat a smoker to 290°F. Or set up a covered charcoal or wood grill with indirect heat and wood chips.
2. Pat the pork steak dry and liberally season both sides with salt and pepper, patting the seasoning into the meat. Scrape the smoker rack clean and coat it with grapeseed oil. Place the steak on the grate over indirect heat. Smoke the steak until the meat is tender and starts separating from the bone but not falling off it, about 3 hours. Check the smoker every hour and make sure you maintain a consistent temperature of 290ºF. Transfer the steak to a baking sheet, tent with foil, and let the meat rest for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
4. Peel and quarter the small turnips. If you’re using the larger turnips, peel them, cut them in half across the equator, and then cut each half into 8 wedges. This way, the pieces will be the right size and the cooking time will be perfect.
5. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter. Swirl the pan until the butter melts and starts to foam. Add the turnips to the butter and cook until the edges start to brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the turnips, transfer the pan to the oven, and roast the turnips until they are fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, add a pinch of salt and the sweet herb mix, and toss to combine.
6. Using a sharp boning knife, carve the pork to remove the bone. Thinly slice the meat across the grain. Smear about ¼ cup of the rutabaga and turnip puree in an arc in the center of each serving plate and shingle a few slices of pork on top of the puree. Arrange the turnips around the pork and garnish the meat with a spoonful of the pickled rutabaga.
Rutabaga and Turnip Puree
(makes about 1 1/2 cups)
Rutabaga – 1 baseball-size, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice, about 1 cup
Turnip – 1 baseball-size, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice, about ½ cup
Heavy cream – about 1 ½ cups
Salt – 3/4 teaspoon
1. Combine the rutabaga and turnip in a 2 ½-quart heavy saucepan and add enough of the cream to cover by about 1 inch. Stir in the salt. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Watch carefully because once it starts to bubble, it will boil over licketysplit! Remove the lid and cut the heat down to low. Simmer until the vegetables are so tender you can easily smash a piece of the rutabaga between your fingers with light pressure, about 1 hour.
2. Pull the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Spoon the vegetables into a blender and add just enough of the cooking cream so the mixture will puree and become smooth and velvety. Using a rubber spatula, press the puree through a fine-mesh strainer for an even more velvety texture.Your puree will be about the consistency of a thick custard.
Makes about 1 cup
Rutabaga – ½ pound, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice, about 1 cup
Champagne vinegar – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup
Water – ½ cup
Dry mustard – 2 tablespoons
Ground turmeric – 2 teaspoons
Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
1. Combine the rutabaga, vinegar, sugar, water, dry mustard, turmeric, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and then cut the heat down to medium-low so that the liquid maintains a steady simmer. Simmer the rutabagas until they are fork-tender, about 45 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and let the rutabagas cool in the pickling liquid. Store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.