Scalloped Root Vegetables
Everybody who has tasted scalloped potatoes at their finest loves them, but unfortunately, insipid versions litter the landscape, from the just-add-water variety to the over-or undercooked samples ladled onto plates in school, hospital, and college cafeterias. What a shame, as scalloped potatoes is truly a great American dish.
I choose to use other root vegetables for this dish, in part because so many potatoes are modified to the point where they are nothing more than simple carbohydrates with a mealy texture and little flavor. This recipe provides the creamy, crusty, dairy-flavored goodness of the best scalloped potatoes, enhanced by the broad flavor spectrum contributed by the rutabaga, sweet potatoes, turnips, and celery root. If there is a drawback to this, it’s the investment of time, from reducing the cream to slicing and then layering the vegetables. But as with all good investments, this one pays off in terms of flavor, texture, and even cooking. One of the secrets is to slice the vegetables evenly and layer them carefully. Finally, this recipe can easily be doubled for a crowd.
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 rutabaga, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 small celery root, peeled and very thinly sliced
1-2 turnips, peeled and very thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, chervil, rosemary, or flat-leaf parsley
1 onion, very thinly sliced
- Bring the cream to a rapid simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat. Simmer gently for 30 to 35 minutes, or until reduced to about 11/2 cups. Cover to keep warm.
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Rub a little grapeseed oil over the bottom and up the sides of a baking dish that measures about 12″ × 9″ and is about 2″ deep. Shingle the rutabaga slices in the dish, overlapping each by about 1″, until the bottom of the dish is fully covered with a single layer. Repeat with the sweet potato, celery root, and turnips. Sprinkle the turnips liberally with salt and pepper and about a third of the chopped herbs. Spread half of the onion over the turnips, being careful that it is evenly distributed.
- Drizzle a third of the warm, reduced cream over the vegetables.
- Repeat the layering process. Add another third of the cream.
- Finish with a layer of rutabaga and sweet potato. Reserve the remaining cream and herbs. If you have leftover vegetables, arrange them decoratively over the top.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Bake for about 40 minutes. Uncover the baking dish and carefully tip it to drain the excess liquid into a small saucepan. There will be 3 to 4 tablespoons of liquid.
- Drizzle the top of the casserole with the remaining cream. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes longer.
- In the meantime, put the saucepan holding the drained liquid over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until slightly reduced and thickened. Drizzle the sauce over the casserole during the final few minutes of cooking. (If you can’t get around to this last step or if it seems too fussy for your style, no worries! The scalloped vegetables still will be delicious.)
- Remove the casserole from the oven. Sprinkle the remaining third of the herbs over the top and serve.
Note:If you are not ready to serve the scalloped vegetables right away, let them cool completely in the dish. After running a knife around the edges, upend on a cutting board. You can cut the casserole into sections and reheat later by sautéing them until browned and crisp on both sides.
Photo Courtesy of Andre Baranowski. Baranowski is a NY based food photographer and was the principal photographer for Michel Nischan’s cookbook – Sustainably Delicious.