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Inspired by some of the answers and comments on a recent question on boiling potatoes whole or diced, I'm curious:

What's the best way to cook a combination of vegetables to be mashed? I'm thinking of a subset of potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots, and anything else that sounds good. Obviously if boiling, one wants to avoid waterlogged vegetables, but the cooking times of the various vegetables are different. Is there a reliable way to cook everything together (at least for some subsets)?

Edit: As mentioned in the comment below, I know that the best one can do may be starting with the longest-cooking vegetables and incrementally adding the rest. What I was wondering was things like if some or all were better baked, or if boiling is good, if some besides potatoes are better boiled whole...

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Are you looking for a reliable way to cook them together at the same time? I'm sure that the most reliable way is just to throw them in the pot at different times. –  Aaronut May 14 '11 at 19:53
    
@Aaronut: If the best one can do is offset times like that, then sure - but I was also trying to ask about cooking methods, since at least one person on the other question suggested baking rather than boiling. I suppose the core intent of my question was: how can one make the best possible dish with the least possible effort? (Soggy or gluey food is bad; so is having to cook things separately.) –  Jefromi May 15 '11 at 4:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

After trying steaming a few times as renegade suggested, I've decided I prefer roasting:

  • As with steaming, everything stays in the vegetables, they're pretty easy to test, and they don't get waterlogged.
  • It gives some nice caramelization, contributing a little to the end flavor.
  • It leaves them drier than steaming, which I like because it gives me the freedom to add plenty of other liquids (e.g. milk).
  • It's easy to roast large quantities of whole vegetables (which wouldn't fit in anything I have to steam in), so I can make large batches. And cooking them whole means there's less to sort through when pulling out ones that got done faster.

To each their own, but this works for me!

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For mashing I've always found steam to give the best results. It makes fully cooked vegetables that are easy to test for doneness along the way, they don't get waterlogged, and most importantly their sugars and starches don't dissolve into the water so you get better flavor.

In a pinch if you find you miscalculated and one veggie is done before the other you can pull the basket off the pot and fish out whatever is done and then let the rest finish.

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I recently had very good results from baking potatoes, turnips, and rutabagas - perhaps I will try steaming and see which I prefer! –  Jefromi May 19 '11 at 17:45
    
@Jefromi - Good idea. I've done plenty of roasting of veg to get a nice caramelization, but hadn't though of doing it for mashing. –  renegade May 19 '11 at 18:57

root vegetables will all cook at nearly the same speed given assuming the size of the pieces are equal. Root vegetables can be tricky to cut into equal sizes because of their tapered and oblong nature. I find a batonnet cut to be the best for this.

roasting in the oven at a low temperature (200-300F) will impart more flavor as well, but might dry the surface out too much for a consistant mash.

http://culinaryarts.about.com/b/2008/03/14/how-to-make-a-batonnet-cut.htm

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I don't really have much trouble cutting things into equal sizes, but in my experience, they definitely do not cook at the same speed. For example, rutabagas seem to be substantially slower than potatoes. –  Jefromi May 15 '11 at 4:54
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-1 Most root vegetables have widely different cooking times! –  TFD May 15 '11 at 9:05

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