Parsnips, Smoked Fish & Horseradish

When I reach for my vegetable brush to scrub off what appears to be half-a-garden of dirt, I think back to the time, many years ago, when my father-in-law challenged me, “Where’s your vegetable brush?” Vegetable brush. Who needed a vegetable brush? He, a Master Gardener, and I, about as far removed from gardening as a person could be, were working together making dinner. Handing him a potato peeler, figuring if there were any dirty spots on the carrot, a peeler would take care of them in short order, I caught a few of his mutterings trailing after him in the breeze he created working around my kitchen, “…peelings….nutrition….should have a brush…”. For the life of me, though, I was quite sure I’d never seen a speck of dirt on any of my grocery-store vegetables and I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about.

Now, since eating only garden-fresh organic produce, I do get what the fuss is about. I not only have one vegetable brush, but two. One to scrape large surface areas, and a smaller one for the nooks and crannies. Tonight’s dinner included the freshly scrubbed parsnips and horseradish pictured to the left. I am not only blessed with fresh garden veggies, and vegetable brushes, but with a family who says they’re blessed by my food.

Parsnips? Horseradish? Those are big flavors, but there’s something outstanding that happens when they’re paired together – both mellowing each other out and deepening the richness in their flavors. My family’s comments tonight were the same as every other time I’ve served this dish – “I can’t get enough….”. I live for that.

We never tire of the flavors in this recipe, because there are so many elements going on – salty, smoky, sweet, cold, warm – all coming together in a very satisfying way. The flavors are also complementary with any number of soups or side salads. Also, making smaller versions – 1-inch in diameter instead of 3-inches – make popular hor doerves.

I don’t guarantee this recipe will work as well with grocery-store parsnips that have been sitting in a plastic bag because they tend to be on the bitter side. If you can manage to find some nice, garden-fresh, dirt-covered parsnips, and do a little bit of scraping, brushing and peeling, you’ll experience a real treat with this recipe. My husband’s comment, which best sums up this recipe is, “If we had this out somewhere expensive, we’d really think we had something!”

The original recipe, located here is by Emeril Lagasse, one of my favorite chefs. I’ve been making it ever since Emeril first introduced it – back in 2001 – and like most of my recipes, I’ve made a few changes. It tastes the same, no matter which method is used but my changes (originally accidental!) resulted in texture changes everyone liked better. Emeril uses his spice mixture in the bread crumbs, and a classic method of breading – dipping the parsnips “cakes” in a whisked egg, coating in the seasoned bread crumbs, then pan-frying. I don’t like the crunch of the breading, so instead, I toss the egg, bread crumbs and a smaller amount of seasoning directly into the mashed parsnips, which I then shape into “pancakes” and lightly pan-fry. For those who want gluten-free, leaving the breadcrumbs out also works well! The success in this recipe comes from having the right flavors – smoked fish, fresh parsnips, rich cream, and high-quality horseradish and sour cream.

While Emeril recommends smoked trout, I’ve used a wide variety of smoked fish. Tonight’s selection was whitefish. The key is that the fish MUST be smoked, as it is foundational to the entire recipe. Everthing else “plays” off the smoked flavor.

Sharon’s Version of Emeril’s Parsnip Cakes with Smoked Trout, Apple, and Horseradish Cream

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, roughly chopped and cooked ‘til tender
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg

Use 1 1/4 tsp of Emeril seasoning (recipe follows) OR,

  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp paprika

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for pan-frying
  • 8 ounces smoked, boned trout or other mild white fish
  • Smoked Trout, Apple, and Horseradish Cream, recipe follows


  1. Place the parsnips in a pot, with enough water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher with all remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the vegetable oil used for frying.
  3. Let sit until cool enough to handle.
  4. Make horseradish cream sauce
  5. Trim smoked fish from bones
  6. When ready to serve, form parsnip mixture into small cakes, about 3 inches in diameter and 1-inch high.
  7. Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  8. Pan-fry the cakes in the hot oil until golden brown on both sides, adding more oil as needed;
  9. OPTION TO PAN-FRYING: Broil 2-minutes per side under medium-high broiler.
  10. Remove from the pan and serve immediately with the Smoked Trout, Apple and Horseradish Cream.
  11. Place flaked, deboned smoked fish on parsnips cake, then top with the apple and horseradish cream sauce.

Apple, and Horseradish Cream:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions OR finely minced leek OR shallots, OR red onions
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Gala apple, cored, and finely chopped

In a small bowl, whisk the cream, horseradish, garlic, oil, and vinegar until well blended. Add the green onions, parsley, salt, and cayenne pepper, and mix well. Fold in the apple and, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve on top of the Parsnip Cakes.
Yield: 4 servings

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 2/3 cup