Preparing a rutabaga for cooking can be a daunting task for the cook who has never handled one of these thick-skinned vegetables before. Known as a suede or a turnip in Ireland, the purplish-yellow rutabaga skin is hard and let's be honest, it's pretty ugly looking.
But rest assured, hiding beneath this tough exterior is a delicious, sweet and peppery vegetable that is rich in beta-carotene and low in calories. Once you know what you're doing, peeling and slicing one of these big tubers is really quite simple.
Step 1: Wash the outside of the rutabaga to remove any dirt. Most American rutabagas are covered in a waxy film, so the dirt is usually removed before the application of this coating. In Ireland and other countries the exterior is uncoated and it's important to remove any dirt before slicing.
Step 2: Place the rutabaga on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the vegetable in half. I like to cut through the central stalk, to create two halves that are easy to lay flat on the cutting board.
This first cut is the most difficult and riskiest of all, since the oval surface of the tuber makes it difficult to stabilize for cutting. Take extra care, to ensure your knife does not slip.
Step 3: Turn each half onto its flat side, then cut it into ½ inch thick semi-circles. Throw away the first and last piece which are covered in thicker skin.
Step 4: Use a paring knife to remove the outer skin of each semi-circular piece. This method is much easier than trying to peel a rutabaga with a potato peeler – really a mission impossible.
Step 5: Next, lay each piece flat and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Step 6: Cover the diced rutabaga with lightly salted water until ready to cook with it.
And there you have it, a simple method for peeling and cubing a rutabaga or turnip, a technique I learned from my Irish mother.
Here's my complete recipe on how to cook a rutabaga Irish style.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)