Monday, March 28, 2011

March is a Fair-Weather Friend

Recipe: Late Winter Root Vegetable Gratin

March is an odd month. It's not quite spring, but you're desperately sick of winter. The weather oscillates between spring jacket and winter coat temperatures and you just wish mother nature would make up her damn mind.

March is also a pretty bad month for eating. Spring veggies aren't quite in season, but by this time I'm so sick of eating root vegetables that I would rather go back to stuffing my face with burgers. I am trying to stay creative, and (mostly) vegetarian, so because of this I've started to make some really complicated dishes.

For the most part, my cooking style can be defined by "Let's throw it all in a pot and see what happens." It could be any variety of ingredients or cuisines, but really I've become the master of one pot wonders. This is because I rely on having left overs and the one pot wonder always leaves me with a full fridge. But I'm sick of it. Just like I'm sick of root vegetables and winter.

Today I stretched my imagination, and decided to make a casserole of sorts. I guess this dish is sort of like a more elegant version of my usual tricks, but at least I don't feel like I'm eating the same old stuff every week. Warning: it was a lot of work to get all these veggies peeled and sliced, but I think they payoff was pretty great. You can definitely substitute with your favorite root vegetables or remove your sworn vegetable enemies. Its a perfect late winter dish, using up the last of our cold weather vegetables but the addition of leeks and fresh herbs gives it the freshness of spring. This can make a great side dish or be served with a salad and some bread to make a full meal.

Late Winter Root Vegetable Gratin 

1 recipe Bechamel, with 1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 leek, fine julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS butter
2 celery root, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
2 golden beets, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
1 turnip, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
1/2 bulb fennel, shaved
2 TBS fresh tarragon, minced
1 TBS breadcrumbs
Just before the béchamel is added.

1. Make béchamel according to recipe. Add parmesan during the last 5 minutes of cooking

Layering the vegetables
2. Preheat oven to 350. Caramelize leeks and garlic in butter over high heat. Once pan begins to brown, add a touch of water to deglaze the pan. Once water has evaporated and pan begins to dry, add a splash more water. Continue these steps as necessary until leeks are soft.

3. In a casserole pan, layer the sliced vegetables. Make sure the vegetables are sliced very thinly, as they will take forever to cook if they are too thick. About halfway up, add a layer of the cooked leeks, 1TBS tarragon, and half the béchamel. Continue to layer the vegetables until you have used them all up, or until the pan is full. On the top layer, add the rest of the leeks, tarragon, béchamel, and top with breadcrumbs.

4. Cook in oven until all the vegetables are soft and the top of the gratin has browned, about one hour. Enjoy with steamed greens and a nice baguette.

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