Thursday, December 17, 2015

Roasting Vegetables the RIGHT Way, MY Way

All the cookbooks and cooking shows are wrong. All the nice trendy little packages of "vegetables for roasting" in the gourmet markets are misleading. You can't just fling a raw vegetable into the oven and expect gourmet delights on a weeknight. I've tried and tried.

As much as I love baked potatoes and roasted sweet potatoes, I know they take an hour no matter what--proper technique requires a deep center cut and a couple of cross-cuts, a bit of oil rubbed on the skin, and a piece of foil to keep the oil from dripping--and plan accordingly. I tried so many times to make cut-up roasted potatoes in a pan, but even with generous glugs of oil they just wouldn't cook properly. So I tried boiling them first, remembering the fantastic roasted potatoes with bacon my mom used to make. Success!

So what you SHOULD do, is trim and chop the vegetables, put them in a pan of cold water, and bring them to a boil for about five minutes--the outside should just be softening but the insides should still be firm. Then dump them in your roasting pan, add a few good swirls of olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper, and whatever herb or spice flavors you fancy. Heating the roasting pan with some chopped bacon in the bottom for ten minutes will add more flavor. A wide, shallow pan is best for crisper results. Too much oil makes a soggy mess in the bottom of the pan.

Purple carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, etc.
You might nestle seasoned pork chops, chicken legs or breasts, giant shrimp or other animal protein delights among the vegs. Don't forget to toss well. Put in a nice hot oven, anywhere from 350 to 400 degrees (depending on the accompanying protein) for about twenty to thirty minutes, depending on degree of browning preferred. Toss and stir once or twice. Done!

My favorites for this technique include white/purple turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, orange sweet potatoes, white Asian sweet potatoes, cauliflower, celery root, carrots, yellow or pink beets, russet or purple potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Radishes are good but a little bland. Pre-roasted or frozen chestnuts are excellent to toss in the pan. Onions, butternut squash, and fennel slices do NOT need any precooking, nor do sliced apples or Bosc pears.

Brussels sprouts, Yukon gold potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash
Seasonings are a lot of fun with so many bland, starchy veggies involved. I like herbal blends like Herbs de Provence, or Fines Herbes plus extra thyme. Seasoning should be STRONG. Recently I used some Penzeys Spices Turkish seasoning (salt, garlic, cumin, black pepper, oregano, sweet paprika, sumac, cayenne red pepper and cilantro) for parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes, and added a few tablespoons of maple syrup too. Of course, using grated cheese transforms the dish into something more like a gratin.

Chickpeas are a great addition too.

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jo yo said...
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