Mashed turnips are a less starchy, more sharply flavored alternative to mashed potatoes. They have a bit of bite that is delightful alongside roasted meats of all kinds, and are particularly well-suited to serving with lamb. "Neeps" as they call them in Scotland are a prized side dish served with hearty stews and other meat dishes. Know that they are not as fluffy as mashed potatoes, so don't think you can serve them without people knowing you've made the switch!
Note: For a fluffier texture and a less intense taste, substitute a few potatoes for some of the turnips.
- Rinse and peel the turnips. Cut them into large, even pieces (keeping them pretty much the same size will help ensure that they cook at the same rate). Put the turnip chunks in a pot, cover them with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add enough salt to the cooking water to make it taste just noticeably salty (yes, you'll add salt at the end, but salt in the cooking water will help bring out the best flavor in the turnips themselves, and limit how much salt you add at the end, when it tends to make a dish taste more salty rather than seasoned). Cook the turnips until they're very tender when pierce with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes after the water comes to a boil.
- Meanwhile, gently heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat (or in a microwave-safe container for 15 seconds on high power). Add the butter and melt it into the milk. Set aside.
- Drain the turnips thoroughly, return them to the pot, and place the pot over medium-low heat. Shake the pot slowly but constantly to keep the turnips moving (and not browning), for about 3 minutes to dry out the turnips a bit. Taking the time to do this will help keep the mashed turnips from being watery.
- Mash the turnips until they're as smooth as possible. If you have a ricer, use it "mash" the boiled turnips for a fabulously even texture (you pop the pieces in the ricer, push the handle down, and voila—no lumps, no fuss!). No ricer? A potato masher or even a large fork will work well, too. Since they have less starch than potatoes, you don't need to worry about turnips turning gummy in the same way, so if you want to pulse them in a food processor or use a hand mixer to mash them, go ahead.
- Stir the warmed milk and melted butter into the mashed turnips. Add salt to taste (don't be shy, salt is the key to bringing out the best in all root vegetables!). Serve the mashed turnips hot, or at least quite warm.
Make Ahead Tip: If you want to make these ahead of time, there is a simple way to do it. Transfer the mashed turnips to a casserole or other baking dish. Simple heat up in a hot oven—cover the dish, if you like, the letting the top brown looks great and tastes good, too.