Roasted Root Vegetables

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.

Grilled Double Cut Pork Chops with Roasted Root Vegetables and Braised Mustard Greens

Grilled Double Cut Pork Chops with Roasted Root Vegetables and Braised Mustard Greens

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.

That brings me to roasted root vegetables.

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

1 rutabaga

1 turnip

3 carrots

2 TBS EVOO

Sea salt

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!

Pot Roast Is Magic

Something magical happens when you make pot roast.

Into the pot goes a tough, sinewy piece of beef, and a couple of hours later out comes a tender, mouth-watering hunk of meat that falls off your fork.

The secret to this magic is two-fold: time and moisture. You use a less expensive cut of beef, such as chuck roast, and braise it for hours until the tough connective tissues have been broken down by the heat and you are left with a beef that is super flavorful and in a sauce that is wonderfully complex.

Nothing warms up a chilly autumn evening like a steaming bowl of magical pot roast.

Yankee Pot Roast

Yankee Pot Roast

Variations of pot roast are made all over the world, but where I live “Yankee Pot Roast” is most popular. The beef is braised with carrots, potatoes, onions and celery in a mixture of beef stock and red wine. Over time, the beef breaks down, the onions and celery liquify, and the cooking liquid becomes a lush, velvety sauce that tempers the cooler weather outside.

Pot roast can be made in the slow cooker or on the stove top, but I prefer to use my Dutch Oven, which is a heavy sided pot with tight fitting lid that can be used either on the stove or in the oven, or in this case both.

My Dutch Oven is reserved exclusively for my pot roast. I know, weird, right? I also have a casserole dish that can only be used for tuna noodle bake!

The recipe for pot roast is super easy, inexpensive and quick to prepare. Just pop it in the oven for a few hours and let the magic transpire while you go on about your day. As it cooks, the aroma will fill your house with goodness.

Here's where the magic happens

Here's where the magic happens

Yankee Pot Roast

3-4 lb chuck roast or other tougher beef cut

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 large onion, large dice

2 stalks celery, rough chop

3-4 carrots, rough chop

2 cloves garlic, crushed

5-6 red potatoes, quartered

1 bay leaf

2 TBS tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

2-1/2 cups beef stock

TBS Italian seasoning

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Heat Dutch Oven on burner until hot. Add TBS EVOO. When smoking, add onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and cook until onion translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Then add tomato paste and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. Add wine and let reduce by half, about 5 minutes.  Stir in about 1 TBS flour, beef stock and Italian seasoning, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.

2. Dredge beef in flour seasoned with S&P. In cast iron pan, brown on both sides. Place browned beef on top of vegetables in simmering liquid and cover. Place Dutch oven in oven and let cook for 90 minutes.

3. Remove from oven and stir in the potatoes and 1 cup of water. Return to oven for another 60 minutes.

To serve, remove meat to side plate. Mound vegetable mixture in center of bowl, then cut off a chunk of meat and lay on top. Garnish with sprig or chopped parsley, sprig of rosemary or tyhme, or whatever green looks good.

I would suggest serving with crescent rolls because their buttery, flaky texture is perfect for mopping up the thick, flavorful sauce.

Buttery, Flaky Crescent Rolls

Buttery, Flaky Crescent Rolls

Do you have any favorite recipes that make you actually look forward to colder weather? Why not share them in the comments section? And thanks for looking at my blog!