These fritters were on the White House Thanksgiving menu during Grover Cleveland's first term, 1885-1889. There's no word on whether they reappeared four years later for his historical non-consecutive second term, 1893 to 1897.
The recipe description written in 1887 says these fritters "resemble very nearly the taste of the salsify or oyster plant, and will generally be preferred."
We've added nutmeg for a bit of extra flavor, but if you're a stickler for authenticity, you should omit it.
Make Ahead: The fritters can be made a few hours in advance and held at room temperature or made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and reheat in a lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat to re-crisp.
Yield: Makes two-inch fritters
- 16 ounces parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, thick rounds cut in half lengthwise
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 1 large egg, beaten
- A couple pinches of freshly grated nutmeg (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons lard, turkey fat (from pan drippings) or unsalted butter , or more as needed
Place the parsnips in a medium saucepan with salted water to cover, bring to a boil and cook until the parsnips are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.
Transfer the parsnips to a large mixing bowl. Use a fork or potato masher to press the parsnips into a coarse mash, discarding any sections that are tough and woody. The yield is about 2 cups.
Stir in the flour, egg, salt to taste and the nutmeg, if using, and stir to combine well.
Line a large plate with several layers of paper towels.
Heat the lard, turkey fat or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the parsnip mixture 1 spoonful at a time, pressing down on it to form a round patty about 2 inches in diameter. Work in batches so as not to crowd the skillet. Cook until the patties are golden brown, about 2 minutes, then turn them over and cook until golden brown on the second side, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the cooked fritters to the paper towels to drain. Repeat to fry all of the batter, adding fat as needed. Serve the fritters warm.
Adapted from "The White House Cookbook," 1887.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.