NAVETS A LA BÉCHAMEL: Turnips With Béchamel Sauce

purple top turnips

Turnips Béchamel, or turnips in a creamy white sauce.  La Cuisine details the choosing of a good turnip:  “You must choose turnips that are white and firm, not too large, but heavy (because many are hollow).”

This being The Year Of The Enormous Turnip in the garden, I had to skip over the “not too large” part, but I have yet to come across a hollow one this year!  One trick that R. Blondeau likes to employ often with turnips, and which makes them loose the bitter turnip flavor, is to boil them in broth.  They take on the savoury broth flavor, and keep their sweetness.  This recipe is given in two parts; the first part is the sauce, and the second is the turnip part.  The sauce is a very simple white sauce, consisting of melted butter, flour, and hot milk.

melting butter

SAUCE BÉCHAMEL (direct translation)

Melt a pat of butter the size of an egg, and add a spoonful of flour and allow it to lightly brown.  Add one glass of hot milk, and stir until the sauce is thickened.  Salt and pepper at the end.

Navets aux bechamel

NAVETS A LA BÉCHAMEL (direct translation)

Peel and cook your turnips in broth; salt and pepper them, and serve them drained, under a sauce Béchamel (see sauces).

Bechamel sauce

Turnips with Béchamel Sauce, a modern version

For the sauce:

1/4 cup butter

1 Tablespoon flour

1-1 1/2 cups hot milk

salt and pepper to taste

For the rest:

2 medium turnips

1 quart flavorful broth, preferable bone broth or broth from a pot-au-feu

  1. Start your broth heating while you trim and peel the turnips, and slice them into bite-sized pieces.  When the broth is hot, add the turnip pieces and get them cooking.
  2. Start heating the milk in a sauce pan.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a good, heavy-bottomed pan or sauce pan (the heavy bottom protects it from sticking or burning and keeps the temperature more even while it is thickening).  Add the flour, and mix it into the butter.  Let the flour brown just slightly in the butter before you mix in the hot milk.
  4. Stir the sauce constantly while it is thickening.  When it is a good consistency, season it with salt and pepper.
  5. Test the turnip pieces for tenderness with a fork, and if they are ready, remove them with a slotted spoon to a serving dish.  Pour the sauce over top, and add a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Navets aux bechamel

{My grandmother, Claudia Meraud, was born in Nice, France.   She immigrated to the US after meeting my grandfather while he was stationed there as a US soldier in WW II.  We spent several summers together, just the two of us, living with her sister in Nice.  She passed along to me an old French cookbook titled  title is La Cuisine:  Guide Practique De La Ménagère by R. Blondeau, Chef de Cuisine.  It originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Lucie Thomas, who was a native of St. Marie-aux-Mines in Alsace.

This cookbook was published in the 1930’s, and was written as a practical guide for a household cook before the days of the fridge and the food processor.  The recipes are delicious, practical, and (of course) packed with good traditional nutrition.

I am creating translated versions of these antique recipes, re-written for the modern cook, and tested with home-grown and seasonal food.}

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