Recently, my mom was planning a dinner party at which she wanted serve Chicken Oscar, a dish she loves to order at the excellent Carraba’s restaurant chain.
Mom asked me how much of it she could make ahead of time because she wanted to spend time with her guests when they arrived, rather than working in the kitchen.
I told her: All of it.
As a restaurant chef and banquet chef, I learned that almost none of the food on the plate placed in front of you was cooked to order from a raw state. Almost all of it was pre-cooked, par-cooked, or at least pre-marked, then heated and assembled when your order came in. It’s the most efficient way — really the only way — to fill hundreds of different orders over an hours-long dinner rush.
Roasted root vegetables are my favorite fall and winter go-to vegetable side. They can be a combination of any kind of root vegetable — carrot, parsnip, sweet potato, turnip, rutabaga.
They are super easy to make and feature really great flavor contrasts between the different kinds of vegetables — from the sugary sweetness of the roasted carrots to the cabbagey tartness of the rutabaga.
But I also like them because of their shape. You can do all kinds of fun architectural plating with roasted root vegetables. Check out this Chinese pagoda thing I made the other night:
There I go playing with my food again!
Anyway, roasted root vegetables can totally be made way ahead of time — up to a couple of days if you handle them correctly. If I had a big banquet on Saturday night, for example, I would make sure the veggies were cooked and layed out on sheet pans in the cooler by Friday morning. Ten minutes before plate-up, just roll them into the roll-in oven and you’re golden.
When entertaining at home, I often set my oven at 200F to improve efficiency. For example, I recently made a pre-Thanksgiving feast with roast turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etc. Although dinner was at 5:30 p.m., I had everything in the 200F oven by 4 p.m. so I could focus on my guests when they arrived.
So next time you entertain, think about what can made ahead of time and kept warm. I think you’ll be surprised that the answer is just about everything.
Roasted Root Vegetables
1 sweet potato
2 TBS EVOO
Fresh cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Peel vegetables and cut into Lincoln Log shaped peices about 3″ long. Try to keep everything about the same size. Place in mixing bowl. Drizzle with EVOO, season with salt and pepper and toss until seasoned evenly.
2. Lay out onto two sheet pans, making sure there is plenty of room between each piece. Roast until done, about 45 minutes, turning once if you remember. Cool completely and refrigerate for later use, or hold in 200F oven until ready to serve.
What winter vegetables do you like to use when the weather turns cold? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!