Parsnips and Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce


By Freya Bellin

I grew up thinking of parsnips as a soup vegetable. My mom always uses them when she makes chicken or vegetable stock, and she adds them to matzo ball soup. However, as my cooking horizons have expanded, I’ve begun to appreciate how versatile parsnips are. They have an earthy sweetness that works very well in broths, but also comes through when roasted or braised, as in this recipe.

You may consider trying this dish with a combination of root vegetables, as the all-parsnip dish was quite sweet. Potatoes, in particular, would be a nice complement to the parsnips and would also go well with the pumpkin seeds. This sauce is a really creative way of adding both flavor and texture to the dish.  Grinding the seeds more makes them more of a thickening agent, and grinding less adds some crunch. The browned chicken is tasty and adds some protein to make this a heartier meal, but the vegetables really take center stage. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Braised Parsnips and Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ground nuts and seeds are excellent options for thickening sauces, in many ways better than flour. They’re more flavorful, nutritious, and (in this case at least) colorful. Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and pine nuts are all good here, but pumpkin seeds are my favorite. Chopped nuts can work well, too; try to get them as fine as possible.

You can substitute carrots (see the variation), rutabagas, turnips, or new potatoes for some or all of the parsnips if you like.

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 bone-in chicken thighs

Salt and black pepper

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried

11⁄2 pounds parsnips, cut into large chunks

1⁄2 cup ground or finely chopped pumpkin seeds, plus more for garnish

1 cup dry white wine or water

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water, or more as needed

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

 1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken thighs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, turning once or twice, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the onion. Cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, parsnips, and pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring frequently so that the pumpkin seeds don’t burn, until the parsnip chunks are coated with oil and beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the wine and stock and return the chicken to the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and bubble gently until the parsnips are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add more stock if they start to stick. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with more pumpkin seeds and the parsley.

Braised Carrots and Chicken with Sesame Seed Sauce. Add some chopped fresh red chile at the last minute if you like a little heat. Instead of the olive oil, use 2 tablespoons peanut oil in Step 1 and 1 tablespoon sesame oil in Step 2. Substitute carrots for the parsnips, scallions for the onion, and 1⁄4 cup sesame seeds for the pumpkin seeds. Instead of salting for the final seasoning, add a drizzle of soy sauce.



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