Photo: Kelly Rossiter
My husband is involved with an non-profit organization in Ontario that preserves historic buildings. Every year they have a silent auction as a fundraiser and one of the things people bid on is dinner for four at our house. Everything I serve is from Ontario, down to the wines, so I usually suggest to purchasers that dinner in the spring or early summer will provide a bit more choice in terms of produce. This year our guests chose to have dinner in December, so that meant root vegetables would be on the menu.Don't be fooled by the hominess of the ingredients. This was a perfectly elegant side to the menu I had chosen, sharing a plate with pan fried Brussels sprouts, caramelized squash and rack of venison. The recipe makes a huge amount and you can make it a day in advance, so it would be a great side dish for a Christmas dinner. I made it the day before and let it warm to room temperature and then slipped it into the oven about 20 minutes before dinner was served. I'm still eating the leftovers, as you can see from the photo, and it's still terrific.
I'm a big fan of rutabegas, but some people find them too strong a taste. We had them most for winter Sunday night dinners when I was a kid and my dad would put a bit of butter and brown sugar on them. I didn't have parsnips until I was an adult, but now I love them.
This recipe is from Bon Appetit, November 1994.
Mashed Potato, Rutabega and Parsnip Casserole
7 cups vegetable broth or water
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds rutabagas, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/4 pounds parsnips, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1. Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Combine first 7 ingredients in large pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well. Transfer vegetables to large bowl. Add 1/2 cup butter. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until mashed but still chunky. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mashed vegetables to prepared dish.
2. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until onions are tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onions evenly over mashed vegetables. (Casserole can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
3. Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake casserole uncovered until heated through and top begins to crisp, about 25 minutes.