Sunday, February 26, 2006

Roasted root vegetables with horseradish sauce

Here's a recipe for a Cat in the Hat rainy day when you've got plenty of time on your hands. Rather than stare out the window at the rain, why not roast root vegetables?

I have to admit, this is something I very rarely do. I make roast potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that's about it. There's something about veggies roasting in all that fat that makes me nervous. And there's that English overcooked vegetables phobia. For the record, I like my veggies steamed and crisp .... and then I like to slather them with heavy cheese sauces.

Anyway, back to the roasting. Here's what I did:
1. Peeled two rutabegas, cut them into eight, and parboiled in salty water for 10-15 minutes.
2. Peeled three potatoes, cut them into eight, and parboiled for 5 -6 minutes.
3. Cut half a head of cauliflower into large florettes and parboiled for 3 minutes.
4. Peeled 12 cloves of garlic
5. Peeled and cut two shallots.
6. Sliced one giant parsnip.

I melted 1-2 tablespoons of butter with about the same amount of olive oil and added some Herbes de provence, a little fresh thyme. I mixed all the veggies together and coated them with the butter/oil mixture and put them in a large oiled baking dish. Added salt and a stem of fresh rosemary and put them in a preheated oven at 375 for an hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. I added a little more butter about half way because the mixture seemed a little dry. I then turned up the heat to 450 and "finished" them for about 20 minutes. I did this because the potatoes didn't have that crisp look. This charred the cauliflower a little, but that didn't spoil the taste.

I tasted the roasted veggies and they were rich and wonderful and not too oily.

And then I got ambitious.

I'd had an inkling to try using fresh horseradish in a sauce, but the only recipes I could find called for prepared horesradish in a sour cream sauce. Prepared horseradish is typically white and preserved with vinegar that controls its hotness. It is also available in red with beet juice. Surely fresh would be better, I mused. I read in one book that you should never grate fresh horseradish by hand because the fumes might be blindingly overpowering. I sniffed at the horseradish root and it didn't smell that strong. I took a tiny bit of the flesh out on my knifepoint and tried it -- it cleared out my sinuses immediately. I decided to risk the handgrating. It was fine--perhaps I lucked out and had a mild root. First, I peeled the root. If you find any green under the skin, cut it off as it is very bitter (Horseradish is one of the bitter herbs from the Jewish Passover). I grated it and took a few pictures.

I mixed some of the horseradish with some sour cream to test the strength. To my surprise, I added the whole 1/4 cup I'd grated and could barely taste the horseradish. I added a little lemon juice which helped, but I ended up grating more. When I added the horseradish right off the grater, it was much stronger. Lesson learned: fresh horseradish loses it strength when exposed to the air.

But I wasn't satisfied with the sour cream sauce - I wanted to make something...well...more English.

Cheese, horseradish, and cider sauce:
I made a roux with a 1-2 tbsp butter and a little flour, cooked until it foamed, then for one additional minute, stirring all the while. Added 1/2 cup of milk and cooked until it thickened. Added maybe a cup of shredded sharp cheddar and a 1/4 cup of hard cider and took off the heat, beating until the cheese was melted. I then added about 1/4 cup of freshly grated horseradish.

I served the root vegetables with two sauces. They were both good. I prefered the cheese sauce but I think I'd skip the cider next time as it was a little too sweet and appley. Beer might have been a better choice. The horseradish in the sauce was very mild. Lesson learned: fresh horseradish loses its strength when cooked.

Were the sauces better with fresh horseradish? Hard to say...I don't think it made a big difference. I think fresh would be great in very small amounts to pep up a salad or in a salad dressing. But for sauces and the like, I think the prepared version is just fine.


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