Roasting is one of the simplest and oldest ways of cooking. Fall is prime roasted vegetable season. Warming up the house with a hot oven starts to sound like a good idea as temps drop and our bodies crave something heartier than a salad. The formula for roasting any vegetable is simple: fresh vegetables + a little fat + salt + dry heat = yum.
There are endless variations on this simple plan. The size you cut your vegetables, the temp you set your oven, the length of cooking, as well as the addition of flavors from seasonings, deglazing liquids, or what fat you use. Don’t get overwhelmed by these choices though. If you keep an eye on things and adjust based on what’s happening in your pan you can get a good result without much of a struggle.
Root vegetables are great this time of year and are some of the simplest to roast. I have mostly gone with high (400-500 degrees F) cooking temperatures in the past but I’m currently inspired by the low and slow method Chef Bobby Garcia is serving at the Empire Lounge and Restaurant. He uses red, gold and Chioggia beets from Red Wagon Farms – adds extra virgin olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and a little water. All this
goes into a deep baking pan in a 300 degree oven for 6 hours. The flavors become rich as they meld together over time, and the tough beets become soft. As the season changes turnips may be subbed for the beets.
Over at Community in Lafayette, there is talk of bringing back an updated version of their much-loved roasted veggie medley when they roll out their Fall/Winter menu in November. Sous chef Zakary Bolick shares how when roasting, he leaves space between each root vegetable on his sheet pan and bakes at a lower temp first and then finish at 500 degrees to get a nice caramelization. He is fond of including parsnips which mimic apple-sauce flavors and textures when cooked this way, as well as fennel a vegetable that can hold up to the pressures of roasting while providing signature flavors. To finish, he likes to deglaze the pan with lemon or other citrus
juices to loosen the finished product from the pan, while ensuring none of the flavor ends up in the dishwasher.
For my personal roasting experiment, I set to work with beets, parsnips, and fennel. I broke out a deep cast iron vessel and chopped the veggies to roughly 1?2” pieces and drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, and thyme. The pan was covered and then went into a 300 degree oven. Four hours later I had the soft, rich flavors I was looking for with my ideal level of browning. Had I desired more caramelization I could have left the lid off for the last half hour. If my goal had been less caramelization, I could have layered in the veggies deeper and stirred them periodically.
Happy cooking, you crazy cuisine kids. Got a recipe to share? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.