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Fall Vegetables Deserve a Flashy Treatment

  • Slices of potatoes, butternut squash and golden beets stand up in a loaf pan, making a dish worthy of a dinner party. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.



The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I’ve written before that one of my favorite childhood food memories is of my mother’s scalloped potatoes. So simple — thickly sliced potatoes, layered in a Pyrex dish with butter, cream, a little salt and pepper — I loved them then, and I love them now.

Still, I like to branch out. I’ve added mushrooms, replaced the cream with mushroom broth and sprinkled on Gruyere cheese. I long ago fell for the much fancier French potatoes dauphinoise and related dishes. Root vegetables can add more flavor, too: Slice them thinly, bathe them in seasonings and fat, and they’ll satisfy, especially in the cold-weather months.

For a special occasion — say, Thanksgiving — I like Timothy Pakron’s idea in his new book, Mississippi Vegan (Avery).

He uses potatoes, butternut squash and golden beets and stands the slices up in a loaf pan, creating an accordion design evocative of Hasselback potatoes. A paste of olive oil, garlic, herbs and nutritional yeast gives them tons of flavor.

I had to mess with his timing and slicing strategies pretty dramatically — those beets need to be thinner, and still take much longer, than the potatoes and squash — but the result is impressive.

On any given weeknight, you might not want to spend the 2½ hours it takes to get this twist on a casserole done.

But for a dinner party? It would be worth every minute.

Scalloped Root Casserole

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

In testing, we used an 8½-by-4½-inch Pyrex loaf pan.

Adapted from Mississippi Vegan: Recipes and Stories From a Southern Boy’s Heart, by Timothy Pakron (Avery, 2018).

Ingredients

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

6 large cloves garlic, quartered

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled

1 large (12-ounce) russet potato, peeled

1 large (1 pound) golden beet, peeled

Steps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the oil, garlic, rosemary, nutritional yeast, dried thyme, dried oregano, salt and pepper in a mini food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Puree or mash to form a smooth paste.

Cut the butternut squash into two parts; you will be using the top, cylindrical section, and you can find a later use for the rest (bulbous, with seeds).

Use a mandoline to cut the squash into 1/8-inch slices, and the potato and beet into 1/16-inch slices. (If you need to slice by hand and/or otherwise can’t slice the beet and potato that thin, cut them into 1/8-inch slices and microwave the beet on HIGH for 3 minutes and the potato for 1 minute, then let cool before assembly.)

Toss the vegetable slices with the paste in a mixing bowl, adding a little more oil if needed, so they are all evenly coated. Assemble the casserole by alternating stand-up, accordion-style layers of potato, squash and beet in a small loaf pan or baking dish.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil; bake (middle rack) for 1½ hours, until the vegetables are almost tender when pierced with a fork.

Discard the foil; increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast until the tops of the vegetables are crisped and golden brown, and the vegetable slices are very tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (From time to time, insert a pastry brush along the inside of the pan, where juices should be bubbling, so you can baste the top of the vegetables; this will help keep them moist.)

Serve warm, garnished with rosemary sprigs.

Nutrition per serving (based on 6): 230 calories, 5 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar.