Carb Solutions: Mock Scalloped Potatoes
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
- The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
- The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
Compared to a 5 oz. potato (GI of 85) subbing in turnips (GI of 65) to this recipe may look like an insignificant glycemic upgrade, but there are more numbers to compare. The gap between the two widens greatly when it comes to the rate at which carbs are digested (GL), which is why one must look at both scores. As stated in the explanatory introduction, a high GL score is anything over 20. That 5 oz. serving of potato has a GL of 246; the GL of the same serving size of turnips is only 1! The carb prosecution rests its case, your Honor.
Texture is key to this mock recipe and the key to texture here is the thickness of the slices. I used a mandolin to get uniformity in slices of both the turnip and onion – such a great kitchen tool! Another thing to bear in mind is that it takes quite a bit of salt to season turnips just like potatoes. I suggest using a little more salt than you think you should and it still probably won’t be enough. In fact, the original recipe I worked with called for 2 TBS of salt for the whole dish, which was apparently absorbed by the turnip slices completely, as the first batch tasted like no salt had been used at all. So I tripled this measure in the second batch, using 2 TBS per layer as reflected in the recipe below, which did the trick and was not at all salty. Since salt content is somewhat a personal preference, it might take a few tries to suit individual tastes. With such a delicious dish, doing it until you get it “right” really has no downside to it! So practice, practice!
Also, the original recipe called for lightly smashing or keeping the garlic clove whole, so that after it had steeped in the cream the garlic could be strained out easily. Strain out the garlic??? Can there really be such a thing as too much garlic? Instead I minced the clove into fine bits so that the garlic and cream mixture would permeate the entire dish during the final bake. I also added the sprinkle of Hatch Chile powder to the cream just to give it a mild spicy bite, though that was another personal preference. After all, can there ever be too much Hatch Chile flavor!
The baking time of this dish is also something that needs a little practice to perfect. Turnips really never get quite as soft as potatoes do. I stumbled into an improved baking formula because of the process I must go through in photographing each stage of the recipe’s preparation for this article. So I baked this dish for the photo shoot, sampled the missing piece shown in final prep picture and then refrigerated the rest for several hours. That evening I reheated the dish in the microwave and it was a much better. In the first tasting the consistency was a little loose and slightly watery. I think letting it chill for a few hours allowed the turnips to absorb more of the liquid. The texture improved with reheating and the flavors had melded into a more cohesive dish. Good as mom’s? Almost, though she will probably read this, so I take the Fifth. Enjoy!
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove Melissa’s Fresh Peeled Garlic, minced
Pinch of Melissa’s Hatch Chile powder, Mild
1 Sweet onion, sliced thin
1 lb. Turnips, peeled, thinly sliced
6 TBS Almond flour, divided
6 TBS butter, divided
6 Tsp salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
Put the cream, garlic and Hatch chile powder in a small pan on a low flame just until the cream comes to a light boil. Watch closely because it can boil over very quickly. Remove from flame and let the mixture steep about 15-20 minutes.
Peel and slice thin both the turnip and the onion. I used a mandolin set at about ¼ inch.
Melt 1 TBS butter and lightly sauté onions until just wilted.
Butter a 7x11" baking dish (2 quarts). Layer 1/3 of the turnip slices, sprinkle liberally with salt, then 1/3 of the onions, 1/3 of the flour, 1/3 of the cheese, then pour 1/3 of the cream over this and dot with 1/3 of the butter cut into small bits as well as a grind of fresh pepper. Repeat the layering two more times. Note: before sprinkling the last third of the cheese over the top layer, pour the cream first.
Cover the baking dish with foil and. bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes until fork tender and bubbly. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.