I’m convinced that big chunks of root vegetables are the perfect complement for rich, hearty winter stews—they absorb all their juices like savory sponges while adding to the complexity of the sauce. Even if nontraditional, they can make a stealthy starring role in such venerable cold-weather, long-cooked staples as cassoulet—with or without the addition of meat. Or wine-braised short ribs.
Rutabagas might not look like much — a discolored turnip, a rounded daikon — but they have a fierce flavor that certainly sets them apart from the rest of the root vegetable pack. Pungently bitter when raw, their tight-walled, yellow flesh dissolves after long simmering, releasing earthy aromas and a subtly sweet taste. It pairs perfectly with cream, butter and leeks, I think, and your kitchen will never have smelled better from the combination.