Are you still wondering what to do with those less common root vegetables? I'm talking about parsnips, turnips and, gasp! rutabagas. I sorta covered one of rutabaga's talents in a previous post, but wanted to go further with the wonderful panoply of what roots can do.
The root vegetables are, obviously, the underground parts of plants. They can include bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes. To keep it simple, let's call 'em roots. Many are familiar: carrots, potatoes, onions and beets. But, it also includes: radishes, parsnips, celery root (aka Celeriac), sweet potatoes and yams, ginger, garlic, kohlrabi, jicama, fennel and cassava (Yucca). They're important staple foods around the world since they are ingenious storage sites for carbohydrates.
I've always loved all manner of root vegetables, and one of my favorite soups is carrot soup made with honey, shallots and French herbs. Hmmm. Maybe that needs to be on this blog?
The food magazines and cooking sites are filled with ways to roast root vegetables, but I'm not big on roasted vegetables. It's all too easy to end up with over-done, slightly burnt vegetables. And, I'm not convinced that the 'sheet pan' method is any easier or 'concentrates' flavor any better. I am a big fan of glazing, however. But, this isn't the glazing that you're probably familiar with - coating a big ham with overly sweet syrups.
No, this is a completely different thing, and I learned it from a MasterClass lesson by Michelin-starred chef, Thomas Keller of the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California.
Glazing vegetables is incredibly simple and straight forward, once you understand it. And, if you're looking for a method that is faster than pre-heating an oven, turning vegetables to make sure they're not burning, then glazing is for you! Learn this method, and you'll be rock star with your family, and I'd love to see how your kids will inhale this stuff.
The 'cut' is the key to glazing. If you're going to do this, then do it right. Keep a sharp knife, and learn how to use it. Cutting the vegetables into same-size cuts. Bite-sized. They don't need to be the same shape necessarily, but same-sized cuts cook at the same rate and more evenly. You can see, above, that I've cut (left to right ) carrot, turnip and rutabaga into the same-size shapes. Yes, I had to remove the rounded outer parts to get the flat 'planks', but the 'waste' went right into my freezer for a future batch of vegetable broth. Nothing is wasted.
I happen to like the shapes here - a Batonnet or french-fry cut, but have often used a variety of other 'cuts' such as 'coins' (Paysanne) or 'roll cuts'. You can see a visual glossary of classic vegetables cuts here. Learn to do a few of these cuts reasonably well and you'll "wow" your family and guests - and produce a better dish in the process.
Sometimes, I'll do different cuts just to stay in practice. Take a potato or big fat carrot and do the same. This is also a reason that I never, ever buy those little 'baby' carrots in the bags. Those limit what you can do. They're not big enough to do much more than a Paysanne cut, and even then, they're rather worthless.
Next, put your cut vegetables into a pan with straight sides. Fill that pan about half-way up with: water, broth or wine. I'll generally use a water/broth mix, depending on the flavor profile I'm after. Then, add your sweetener. That could be: maple syrup, honey, sugar, date sugar. Taste the liquid. You absolutely do not want it really sweet. Sorta. Kinda. Sweet. Now add the herbs, some salt, and whatever other aromatics you have in mind. I used maple syrup, Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, a few grinds of pepper and about a half teaspoon of granulated onion powder.
Bring the liquid up to a gentle bubble and reduce the liquid by about half. It will probably take about 10-15 minutes. I don't stir it, but shake the pan.
Keep tasting the glazing liquid. Adjust the seasonings if needed. Sometimes a splash of fresh lemon juice or a few drops of nice white wine or apple cider vinegar will help to balance out the flavors. Occasionally poke a vegetable with the point of a paring knife to see how much more cooking is needed.
While my vegetables were glazing, I pan-fried (oil-free, of course) a couple of plant-based Chick'n patties, and made a fast as lightening gravy (find that here). Pour the gravy right in over the browned patties and bring to a bubble to thicken for just a minute or two. And, I had some leftover red rice heating up in the microwave.
The components of this meal all came out ready at pretty much the same time: glazed roots, Chick'n patty with gravy over the rice (Yeah, busted! I'd mixed some chopped Swiss Chard into the rice before I microwaved it, and cut up a few tomatoes earlier and mixed them with a few spoonfuls of my Chow-Chow).
So, why not give this a try? Any root vegetables you like. Mix 'em up, or not. As you wish. There's no 'recipe' here. Same-size pieces, in water/broth kinda liquid. Half-way up the side of the pan. Add sweetener. Add salt, pepper, herbs and aromatics so that the liquid tastes good. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Remove and eat.
Oh, BTW, this is an amazing thing to do with radishes!
Hey, if you like or make this dish, would you mind posting the recipe to Yummly? I'd really appreciate that. The Yummly icon is on the right side of this webpage. Oh, and saving to Pinterest would also be great! Each photo should have a Pinterest icon in the upper left corner! Thanks!
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