Extreme Makeover: Root Vegetables

Monday, 23 Feb 2009


Today I took an ugly bunch of rough-and-tumble root vegetables and turned them into an elegant and healthy gratin — extreme makeover to say the least.  Food and Wine Magazine used this Root-Vegetable Gratin as their “cover dish” this month, billing it as healthy comfort food packed with beta carotene.  I was drawn in by the butternut squash and sweet potatoes, and also thought it was interesting that the recipe contains rutabagas.  I think it might have been my first time to eat rutabagas — it was definitely my first time cooking with them.


Here’s what I had to work with.  The rutabaga is the bumpy overgrown turnip-looking thing at bottom left.   When I tasted it, it reminded me of a turnip or a parsnip.


The vegetables are already looking better once they’ve been peeled.


Next, I used a mandoline to slice the vegetables 1/8″ thick.  The mandoline is my new favorite kitchen tool — it saves so much time compared to cutting by hand, and it gets the slices perfectly even.  Here’s a picture of the tool:


Some of the reviews of the recipe indicated it was a little bland.  To give it a little more flavor, I chopped about two tablespoons each of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme.  I sprinkled the herbs in between the layers as I dish together.  The recipe did not contain onion, but I sliced one with the mandoline and also layered it throughout the dish.


I also shredded some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and layered it on top of the gratin before adding the panko breadcrumbs.


I was happy with the way the dish came out, but I have a couple changes I’d make for next time.  I expected the dish to have more texture and retain the layered look evident in the Food and Wine recipe photo.  It was actually very soft and almost mushy, and sank down considerably in the pan when it cooked, so the gratin wasn’t very deep.  I think it would help to either cook it less or stack it up higher in a smaller baking dish.  Also, I don’t know that the onions added much in terms of flavor – the texture might be better without them.  All in all it tasted great — a successful “extreme makeover!”  Even my vegetable-averse husband  gave it a thumbs-up.  I don’t think I told him it contained rutabagas.


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