Though many resist the peppery taste of turnips and their tops, Drawing Room executive chef Jon Cropf is a longtime fan. “Fifteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the best meal of my life at Zuni Café in San Francisco,” he says. “I was served a dish of roasted turnips with butter, sea salt, and fresh herbs. Since then, I’ve used turnips every season.”
Taking local turnips into his kitchen, Cropf first ramps up a gratin—traditionally a rich comfort-food marriage of russet potatoes and heavy cream—by using the more flavorful Yukon Gold potatoes and adding the spice and sweetness of turnips and rutabagas. The result is a sure-to-please cold-weather accompaniment to any roasted meat.
In a soup, the chef capitalizes on the combo of turnips and their greens. Starting with a bright base of sautéed shallots and garlic, he simmers the tangy roots to tenderness in a hearty broth of roasted chicken stock, ham hock, and cream and finishes with a mustardy julienne of the leaves for yin and yang in a bowl.
Mild baby turnips star in a seemingly straightforward side of roasted turnips—until Cropf tosses the hot tots in a creamy vinaigrette with bacon overtones from a smoky olive oil. Chives and micro herbs add flickers of flavor.
When purchasing turnips, Cropf advises looking for roots free of wrinkles, cracks, and blemishes. (The freshest turnips will still have vibrant greens attached.) “We trim the greens as soon as the turnips come in,” he says. “I believe it helps preserve the crispness of the root.”
Citing his culinary philosophy that you should buy the “absolute best ingredients possible,” Cropf sources as much as he can from Ambrose Family Farm—130 acres on Wadmalaw Island run by Pete Ambrose since 1976. (Ambrose Family Farm also operates a CSA as well as Stono Market on John’s Island.) “Pete and his crew take so much pride in the vegetables they grow, and that passion and care show,” Cropf says. “Every season, Ambrose Farm has a huge variety of produce, and I try to incorporate that range throughout the menu at Drawing Room.”
Dishing It Up with Chef Jon Cropf
RESTAURANT: Drawing Room
FIRST F&B GIG: “At 15, I was a dishwasher at Mountain Branch near Fallston, Maryland.”
EDUCATION: Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte campus
FAVORITE LOCAL INGREDIENT: “It depends on the season: In the spring, I look forward to the first fava beans and asparagus. And in the summer, it’s local heirloom tomatoes.”
RECIPE I'LL NEVER SHARE:“I’m always willing to share. I’m a firm believer that recipes are guidelines that need to be adapted to the ingredients you’re sourcing.”