To say that I like roasted root vegetables would be an understatement. To say that I like to make a lot of roasted root vegetables would also be an understatement. More than stuffing, carrot ring, and cranberry sauce, I look forward to these roasted vegetables on the Thanksgiving table. Forget about mashed potatoes; at our house, roasted root vegetables are king.
(I wonder how many times the phrase "roasted root vegetables" has been used in the span of seven sentences. My apologies for the lack of phrase variation.)
The real wild card in the dish is the roasted garlic and herb mixture that gets mixed in at the very end. Smashed roasted garlic gets tossed with a heap of fresh parsley and rosemary (other woody herbs like sage and thyme also taste great) and added to the melange right before serving. The sweetness of the roasted garlic, along with the fresh herb flavor, really elevates the more humble vegetables and takes them from delicious to absolutely fabulous. Without a doubt this is my favorite thing to eat during the holidays (and a good thing because I made enough to last until Christmas).
Anyway, one of my favorite things about this recipe is that it's really more of a method than precise instructions. Once you learn the technique, you can craft dozens of different variations with all kinds of vegetables. This year, our mix included carrots, parsnips (my favorite of the bunch), sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, butternut squash, pearl onions, and cremini mushrooms. However, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas, beets, and even celery, which takes on a wonderful savory flavor when roasted, would also be delicious.I chop furiously. It's kinda fun.
Roasted Root Vegetables
You can prepare this dish early in the day if you like. Just cover the roasted vegetables. When you are ready to serve them, warm them in an oven and top them with the garlic-herb mixture. If you prefer, you can peel the root vegetables, but I love the texture (and nutrition) that the peels provide. As I said before, you can substitute or add in other root vegetables if you like. Just be sure to cut them into similarly-sized pieces. If you choose to add beets, rutabagas, or celery, cook them along with the root vegetables. If you choose to add Brussels sprouts, halve or quarter them and cook alongside the mushrooms and onions. We use a large disposable aluminum roasting pan (the kind you'd use to roast a turkey) for the root vegetables. It's very important both to season the vegetables liberally and to toss them every 15 or so minutes so that they cook evenly (this is a lot of vegetables we're talking about here). We cook the vegetables using our oven's "convection roast" setting. If your oven doesn't have this setting, roast at the same temperature, keeping in mind that it may take longer for the vegetables to cook through. To ensure even cooking, just toss every 15 minutes until they are tender.
Yield: an insanely large amount; at least 20 servings
2 pounds carrots
2 pounds parsnips
2 large sweet potatoes
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
2 (10-ounce) bags of pearl onions
10-12 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Large handful of fresh parsley
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Adjust two oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and butternut squash into 3/4-inch to 1-inch pieces. It's important that the root vegetables be close to the same size so that they cook at the same rate. Place in a large roasting pan and set aside.
Halve or quarter the mushrooms and place on a foil-lined half-sheet pan. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. When it has reached a bowl, drop in one of the bags of pearl onions. Cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and run cold water over the onions to cool them down. Using a paring knife, peel the outer layer off the pearl onions and add to the half-sheet pan with the mushrooms. Repeat with the second bag of pearl onions. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to the half-sheet pan, too.
Lightly drizzle the root vegetables with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. (You can also spray them with nonstick cooking spray and achieve the same result.) Toss the vegetables with your hands to ensure they are sufficiently and evenly seasoned. Repeat with the mushrooms and onions.
Place the roasting pan of root vegetables on the lower middle rack of the oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes have passed, carefully and quickly toss the vegetables with a large spoon. Roast for another 15 minutes and toss again.
After the root vegetables have been roasting for 30 minutes (they will have been tossed twice), place the mushrooms and onions in the oven on the upper middle rack. Roast for 15 minutes and again toss both the root vegetables and mushroom-onion mix.
Roast for a final 15 minutes, or until the root vegetables are browned and fork tender. The mushrooms will be browned (and shrunken) and the onions will also have taken on some color. Remove all the vegetables from the oven and let cool while you prepare the garlic-herb mixture.
Finely chop both the parsley and rosemary and place into a small dish. Peel and mash the roasted garlic and add to the herb mixture. Mix the herbs and garlic together.
Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter, add the garlic-herb mixture, and toss to incorporate everything together. Serve hot.