Parsley is our everyday herb, so common that it’s often used as a throwaway, a garnish that goes uneaten but is set on the edge of a plate for its cheerful color. Parsley root, however, is seldom seen, and that’s a shame. Like the leafy herb, its flavor is lively and clean. Long stems support a mass of dark leaves that closely resemble flat-leafed parsley in appearance, smell, and taste, except that they are darker green, rougher, and less delicate than the bunch of parsley we buy at the market or snip from the garden. It’s easy to see that parsley and parsley root are closely related, but one is grown for the green leaves, the other for its root, and therein lies the difference.
Parsley root has many names, among them Hamburg parsley (it’s popular in eastern and central Europe and in Germany). It’s not as hefty as a parsnip, which it superficially resembles, and a bunch of five small roots can weigh as little as eight ounces. When you can find them, they are often only five inches or so long, depending on the variety. As root vegetables go, parsley root is one of the more subtle ones; bright but not bombastic.
Because they’re still an unusual find here, you’ll want to tease out every possibility, using the peels in a stock as well as the stems and some of the leaves to underscore the flavor of your final dish, be it a braise, puree, or soup. Parsley root can easily be paired with other root vegetables. They are delicious in mashed potatoes, lending their brightness to the subtle tuber, or with celeriac or parsnips. They also work well simply braised with diced shallot, butter, and some of the stock made from the trimmings, and no one will guess what these delicious little burnished vegetables are when you serve them.
Burnished Braised Parsley Root
Note: Leave a good inch or more of the stems and wash carefully around them. Once cooked, they are as sweet and good to eat as the roots.
Peels and trimmings from 8 parsley roots, about a pound
5 tablespoons diced shallot
1½ tablespoons butter
Freshly ground pepper
Finely minced parsley to finish
1. Make a quick stock first: Peel the parsley roots, trimming away all but a few inches of the stems. Place the trimmings and stems, along with a small handful of the leaves and a few pinches salt, in a small pot. Cover with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.
2. Cut the peeled and trimmed parsley roots lengthwise in half. Cut larger roots into quarters.
3. Melt the butter in a skillet with 2-inch sides. Add the shallot and stir, then mix in the parsley root. Strain, then pour vegetables over the stock. Add 3/8 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced to a few tablespoons and the roots are tender when pierced with a knife and burnished on the bottom. Place the parsley roots in a serving dish with the sauce, which should be reduced to a syrupy texture. Season with pepper and a few pinches of minced parsley.