Continuing a theme we started last week, we'd like to discuss some of the local produce that is still available in the Maryland marketplace. Fresh salad greens are still being grown in high tunnels and greenhouses, but those wonderful root vegetables are still in good supply, coming in from the frosty fields.
Here's a rundown of root vegetables that are grown locally throughout the winter and become available: potatoes, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, pasnips, rutabagas, salsify and daikon. Some, such as the potatoes and carrots, are left in the ground for early winter harvest. Others stay in the ground much longer and actually benefit from a freeze, which triggers more sugar formation in the roots. Once harvested, roots easily keep in so-called "root cellars," where cool temperatures and natural enzymes protect the vegetables from spoiling or deteriorating.
Roots such as turnips, parsnips and rutabagas are used exactly like potatoes. Mash them up, roast them, puree them, or slice them into a nice cheesy gratin. Parsnips, because of their sweetness, can be used like carrots in the role of sweetening a savory broth, sauce, soup or gravy. And like carrots, roasting them brings out a richness of flavor that is quiet agreeable. Here is a nice little recipe we cooked up just for you.
Country Roots Gratin
A Radio Kitchen Original Recipe
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4" thin
1 large yam or sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/4" thin
2 turnips, trimmed, peeled and sliced 1/4" thin
2 large parsnips, trimmed, peeled and sliced on the diagonal 1/4" thin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2/3 cup scalded heavy cream or half and half
1 cup of shredded gruyere cheese
4 strips of cooked bacon, cut into 1" pieces
1. In a 9X13 oven proof casserole, heat the chicken broth and butter, in a 400 degree oven until the butter melts.
2. In a large bowl, toss the sliced vegetables, separating all the slices, and season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
3. Add the vegetables to the casserole dish, toss to thoroughly coat, and return to the oven, covered for about 40 minutes.
4. Remove the casserole from the oven, and pour in the cream. Stir in the cheese and the bacon, mixing thoroughly. Place back in the oven, uncovered and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and serve immediately.