Friday, December 5, 2008

Pan-Seared Chicken with Rutabaga Puree, Bacon & Diced Scallions paired with Cisco Breweries ‘Pumple Drumkin’ Spiced Ale

The Rutabaga. It’s gnarly looking and huge; bigger than the most feared pirate ever to sail the seas. Plus it’s really fun to say “Roo-tuh-bay-guh”. Root Vegetables are one of my favorite foods and an inside joke with my girlfriend and one of her best friends Meghan…I got shellacked on my birthday and came home ranting and raving about “Roo-OOT VEH-JUH-tuh-BullS” which I used to make a ravioli stuffing for culinary school on a previous night. I then, drunkenly started cooking under the watchful eye of my very concerned lady and demanded that everyone eat the ravioli stuffing. “No” was not an option. Anyways, I had never seen a rutabaga until recently at the Union Square Farmers Market. I had to have the biggest one and figure out what to do with it later.

When a chef doesn’t know what to do with something he or she usually puree’s it or it ends up in your Sunday brunch frittata as Anthony Bourdain points out in ‘Kitchen Confidential’.

Rutabaga pureed is like a smoother, richer mashed potato. However, it can have that bitter turnipy taste. To dull that bitterness down add a peeled potato (Big-ups to Sharlene for that trick), then either give the potato to the dog or chuck it out. It’s a worthwhile sacrifice. I am now a Rutabaga convert and found my enthusiasm is shared by such seemingly insane organizations as: The Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute & The Mangold Hurling Association who has been known to use Rutabaga’s for their competitions.

Beer pairings are popular right now and with the ever-growing number of microbreweries there are many selections available to you in a myriad of flavors. During the fall and winter pumpkin ales abound in the supermarkets. One you won’t be able to find (unless you’re in Nantucket) is the ‘Pumple Drumkin’. It is a super tasty spiced ale with few equivalents. Dogfish Head’s Pumpkin Ale is fantastic and could be substituted with this dish. Cisco Brewers make the usual styles of beer in an unusually delicious manner. The brew master, Jeff, is top notch and I urge anyone who enjoys microbreweries to check this one out. It is worth the traveling time.


½ a Chicken, skin on (for one dish)
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Rutabaga Puree (Yield: enough for 4 dishes)

1 Large Rutabaga
1/8 Tspn Nutmeg
1 Tspn Cinnamon
¼ Tspn Allspice
2 Tbls Salted Butter
1 Potato

2 Strips of bacon per dish
1 Bunch of Scallions

Rutabaga Stock*
Black peppercorns
2 bay leaves


1. Cut off all the skin of the Rutabaga. Also, you should notice a white layer of flesh that is between the flesh and the skin about an 1/8 of an inch thick, cut that out too. Cut the rutabaga into cubes and place them in a 5 Quart pot filled ¾ of the way with water. Peel a potato and cut it in half. Add that into the water with Coriander Seeds, Whole Pepper corns and 2 Bay leaves. Bring to a simmer until the rutabaga can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove the rutabaga but keep the water simmering. Discard the potato. Reduce the rutabaga stock by half, strain and freeze for later use.
2. Remove the cooked rutabaga and place in a large food processor. Add spices. I used more nutmeg than an eighth of a teaspoon but season it according to the way it tastes good to you…which means, “taste and adjust”. Keep warm.
3. Dice up the scallions on a bias and start cooking the bacon.
4. While the Rutabaga is cooking, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add veg oil to a large sauté pan and put on med-high heat. When the oil is rippling and searing hot, add the chicken, skin side down to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes and check to see how golden brown the skin is, if it doesn’t look crispy delicious, then keep it cooking on that side. (Check the bacon.) Once the chicken is golden, flip it and cook for a minute and a half. Take the chicken out of the pan and let rest.
5. Spoon the Rutabaga puree onto a plate. Slice the chicken between the drumstick at the joint and plate. Garnish with bacon and scallions.
6. Drink with the ‘Pumple Drumkin’

*The Rutabaga stock is so sweet and delicious that it should not be thrown away. Use it for a chicken soup or Miso soup.

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