Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fresh Takes on Old Friends – Day 4 in a Marathon of Sides
What’s cooking? Root Vegetable Gratin

Good news! If you are still hunting for that one more dish, here it is. The even better news is that your grocer might be out of potatoes, but they’re hardly ever out of rutabaga, turnips, and parsnips. Why? Most people don’t know how delicious they can be with the right treatment. And the Kitchen Goddess has just the right treatment.

For years, I thought rutabaga was a made-up word. Maybe that’s because a dear family friend – a slightly nutty guy who was in the advertising business – often used it as a curse word.

“Rutabaga!” he’d shout after he’d stubbed his toe or bumped his head on a cabinet door. And all the kids would laugh. He was always making jokes and puns, so I naturally assumed it was a word he’d invented. And it seemed like a fun thing to say.

Even after I discovered the truth, it was many years before I tasted one. It’s a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, with the texture of a turnip but the subtle sweetness of a cabbage. And while they’re most often served in a mash, they can taste remarkably like potatoes, with half the calories. So this gratin is much easier on your figure than the same thing made with potatoes, and it’s a great taste. Much easier to justify the cheese and cream. And the dicing/parboiling of the veggies can be done the day before.

Kitchen Goddess note: The KG knows you’re just about crazed by now with the cooking, the last-minute shopping, and the ridiculous list of things you’re trying not to forget. But she wants to just call your attention to two bits you may have not yet focused on, and links to those topics on which the Kitchen Goddess has done her best to help:

1. Candles – Don’t forget the candles. They make everyone look better; they encourage everyone to relax, and they make the meal more celebratory.

2. Table settings and napkin folding – Not that I have the best ideas, although I think they’re pretty good. But sometimes, you just need a tiny pinch of inspiration.

* * *

Root Vegetable Gratin

Serves 8.

1½ pounds rutabaga (about 3 small), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
1 pound white turnips (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
1 pound parsnips (about 6 medium), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¼ cups grated Gruyère (about 5 ounces)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

Bring a large pot with about 4 quarts of water to a boil, and stir in ¼ cup of salt. Cook the rutabaga until crisp-tender, 7-8 minutes, and transfer with a slotted spoon or long-handled strainer to dry on paper towels.

In the same water, cook turnips until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes, and transfer with slotted spoon or long-handled strainer to dry on paper towels.

In the same water, cook parsnips until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes, and transfer with slotted spoon or long-handled strainer to dry on paper towels.

Toss together the vegetables in a large mixing bowl. The vegetables can be prepared to this point a day ahead and chilled, covered.

Preheat oven to 350° and butter the sides and bottom of a 2-quart gratin dish (about 12 x 9 x 2 inches).

Stir together the milk and cream and set aside. In the gratin dish, arrange one-third of the vegetables and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour, ¼ cup of the Gruyère, and salt and pepper to taste. Add another layer of vegetables – half of the remaining vegetables – and sprinkle on the remaining tablespoon of flour, another ¼ cup of cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the remaining vegetables over the cheese and pour the milk/cream over all. Sprinkle the remaining ¾ cup of cheese over the vegetables.

Cover the casserole with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake the gratin until bubbling and golden, about 40-45 minutes more.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!!

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