GIFTS FROM THE EARTH
Root vegetables are so easy to find but I find that besides roasting them or blending them into soup, they are too bland for my taste. I really want to eat more of these vegetables and was curious if they were starchy enough to make them au gratin. Au gratin refers to food prepared with a type of golden topping. Scalloped potatoes are often made au gratin.
To find a balance, I prepared this dish using potatoes to hold some of the texture and combined it with parsnips, and turnips. I also added an onion for flavour. I wanted to keep it simple so I seasoned with salt and pepper and fresh thyme. The next time I will try a bit of smoked paprika or tarragon.
The first step is to prepare the vegetables. Because they will be baked together, they need to be an even thickness so they cook evenly. If you have a mandoline this is ideal using the thin setting. The onion, turnips, parsnips and red potatoes are all peeled and sliced. Season the vegetables well with salt, pepper and fresh thyme before layering them in a large ovenproof dish. If the layers come up too high, your dish might be too small. You want a nice sized portion but you don’t want to cut into it and serve a giant tower of vegetables. It will also take longer if they are stacked too high.
The next step is to prepare the cheese sauce. This will give it its golden colour on top but you need to have all your ingredients ready and you need to watch it the whole time. It only takes about 10 minutes but can become lumpy if you let it sit.
In a large saucepan add 2 Tbsp olive oil and whisk 3 Tbsp flour into it. You can use regular flour and you can also use butter instead. This will create a paste called a roux. It is what thickens sauces. In my case, I discovered a flour I really enjoy called Atta which is a combination of durum and whole wheat flours. I felt I should keep this vegetarian dish as healthy as possible where I could.
Once the roux is done, add milk a little bit at a time. You will need 3 cups of milk. Each time you add some, let it simmer before adding more. This will help it to thicken. The key here is to KEEP WHISKING! Don’t stop or the sauce will stick and when you go to mix it, it will become lumpy. When you are done with the milk, you should have a smooth, ever so slightly thick sauce.
Remove this from the heat and add 1.5 C of grated Gruyere or other cheese of your choice. I really like the combination of Gruyere and thyme.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. I always like to go easy on the salt, especially when something cooks for longer lengths of time because it can enhance the saltiness. Plus, you can add salt once the dish is complete.
Pour the sauce over the layered vegetables and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for an hour and a half at 400º. Once it has baked, remove the aluminum foil and broil for 5 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown.
This dish holds nicely so it makes a great side dish for guests and can be easily split and cut for portion control.
Root Vegetables Au Gratin
3 medium red potatoes
3 small turnips
1 small onion
1.5 C Gruyere cheese (grated)
3 C milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp flour
1. Using a mandoline if possible, slice vegetables into thin, even slices.
2. Season root vegetables with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.
3. Evenly layer vegetables in a ovenproof dish.
4. In a saucepan on medium heat, whisk flour into oil until it dissolves.
5. Add milk, 1/2 a cup at a time allowing to simmer between additions.
6. When the milk has been used up and it slightly thick, remove from heat.
7. Add cheese and stir so a thick cheese sauce forms.
8. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Pour sauce over vegetables.
10. Cover with aluminum foil.
11. Bake for an hour and a half at 400º.
12. Remove the aluminum and broil for a few minutes until golden.
Protein 10.5 g