Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but fall is fast approaching and root vegetables are already playing a major roll in meals that will continue well into the cooler months ahead.
Root vegetables need not follow the tired old bland “they are good for you” cooking methods of the past. This root vegetable gratin changes the rules, playing with a medley of colors, flavors, and aromas that transform the humdrum into an enticing centerpiece for flavorsome cooler weather meals. Use the recipe s a guide and make your own variations choosing other seasonal root vegetable combinations that strike your fancy like parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, yams, and so on.
Seasoning with some restraint is the way to go when cooking with subtly flavored root vegetables. For this recipe I have used fresh green peppercorns and summer savory that compliment the flavor of the vegetables without overpower them. Fresh green peppercorns, native to South Asia, are widely available year around here in Thailand but often found in Asian markets worldwide. They impart a lovely earthy flavor and a fresh moderate heat and well worth seeking out. Summer savory likewise brings a light aromatic peppery tang to the dish.
Root Vegetable Gratin serves 6 to 8
- 1 ¼ pounds turnips
- 1¼ pounds small gold potatoes
- 1 pound beets
- ½ cup minced shallots
- 3 ¼ cups whole milk
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter + more for greasing the baking dish
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh summer savory leaves (or dried)
- ¼ cup fresh green peppercorns (or in brine, well rinsed)
- 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ½ cup heavy cream
For this recipe each vegetable is precooked separately as each has a slightly different cooking time. This insures an even texture for the finished dish. Arranging and layering the vegetables in the baking dish may seem a little tedious but the results are well worth the effort.
Needed: oven proof baking dish
Rub the bottom and sides of the baking dish with the garlic clove. Then lightly butter the baking dish and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375f/ 190c
Peel the turnips and slice into 1/8th inch thin rounds and set aside.
Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/8th inch thin slices and set aside.
Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the beets until semi-soft. Set the beets aside to cool and when cool enough to handle slip off the skin and slice the beets into 1/8th inch thin slices and set aside.
Using two large skillets, add half the milk and 1 tablespoon butter to each skillet. Bring both skillets of milk to a simmer. When the butter is melted add ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon summer savory to each skillet and stir to combine. Then add the turnips to one skillet and the potatoes to the other, spreading the contents out evenly. Simmer the turnips for about 10 minutes and the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until the turnips and potatoes are soft but still holding their shape. Then set aside to cool.
When the turnips and potatoes are cool enough to handle begin placing the slices of turnips, potatoes, and beets alternately, one slice overlapping the next, into the baking dish until the dish is covered with a single layer of vegetables. Scatter a quarter of the shallots and a quarter of the green peppercorns over the vegetables and salt lightly. Then drizzle a quarter of the cream over all and scatter a quarter of the Parmigiano over the top.
Repeat this process until there are four layers filling the baking dish.
Combine the milk mixtures into one skillet and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the milk reduces and thickens a bit. Then pour the hot milk over the top and around the sides of the baking dish.
Transfer the baking dish to the preheated oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the gratin is nicely browned and the milk has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to rest for a few minutes before serving.
If you are not serving the gratin cool to room temperature before covering with cling film and refrigerating.
For a classic potato gratin (see recipe here)