“I wanted to showcase a vegetable as if it were a meat dish. I remembered a salt-crusted lamb rack we used to do at the Essex House in New York when I was a young cook there. The slight meatiness of the turnip makes it ideal, and grilling the hoja santa brings out its slight anise flavor. It’s all about trapping flavor and serving something unique.”–Josef Centeno, chef at P.Y.T.
Here’s how his $14 salt-baked turnip comes together:
1. The Source
The turnips are snowy pale orbs from Kong Thao farm in Fresno or LALA Farm in Lincoln Heights (depending on availability).
2. Wrap it up
Centeno envelops each turnip in grilled hoja santa, a heart-shaped aromatic leaf that provides a eucalyptus-like note. “I tried it with fig leaves,” he says, “but they weren’t the right size and let too much salt through.”
3. Salt and Bake
He packs the wrapped turnip inside a thick mixture of kosher salt and egg white. The whole thing goes into a cranking 500-degree oven.
Depending on the season, Centeno might prepare a grated walnut-and-shiso bud chimichurri or a pea-and-Meyer lemon pesto to serve alongside.
5. The Garnish
In addition to crumbled French feta cheese from DTLA Cheese, nettle salsa verde is spooned on top of the turnip. Marigold petals or oregano buds from LALA Farm are scattered on the plate.
The turnip is revealed at the table when a server breaks the salt crust with a brisk tap of a spoon and carefully peels away the hoja santa leaf.