Beetroot, celeriac, turnip, parsnip, and Jerusalem artichoke. As the arrival of the cold weather awakens fond memories of these cosy winter favorites, it's time to go back to our roots! Rather than cooking them the same old way, Taste France Magazine suggests doing things a little differently this year, with the help of chef Alain Passard*. To the kitchen!
This sweet, earthy vegetable is a real all-rounder. Round or tapered, yellow, white or deep red, the young shoots go wonderfully in a salad, the leaves can be pan-fried like spinach and the flesh, once cooked, just melts in the mouth. Now, pass the salt! Place some beetroot on a bed of coarse salt in an oven tray, like you would a sea bass, then cover them completely with some more. Bake for an hour and a half at 150 °C (300 °F), then break the salt crust with a hammer and finish your beetroot with a little butter…
These strange, large, round roots were first popularized in Germany at the start of the 17th century, before France became Europe's largest producer of the creamy colored vegetables. A firm, medium-sized celeriac can be prepared like a risotto. First, peel the celeriac and then cut it into very small, 2mm (0.08") cubes. Next, transfer the celeriac to a large stew pan, season with salt and sweat over a gentle heat for 2 to 3 minutes, with some butter and a finely sliced onion. Cover with milk to no more than halfway and leave to cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the celeriac is cooked but still crunchy. Add a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan and mix thoroughly to bind. Drizzle with olive oil.
The turnip is a very old vegetable of which there are hundreds of varieties - a dozen in the Île-de-France region alone! Why restrict it to soup? If the flavour is slightly bitter, sweeten it! Bring on turnip tarte Tatin! Cut six turnips, with the skin on and the size of a small apple, into halves or quarters, depending on how big they are. Steam them until they are soft. Drain, allow to cool slightly, then roll them into a hot, oven-resistant frying pan with some salted butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Allow to caramelize on a low heat. Cover with a disk of puff pastry and bake for 40 minutes at 180 °C (350 °F). Cover the pan with a plate and turn it over to release the tart, sprinkle with thyme and salt and enjoy!
Parsnip with walnuts
Don't be fooled by its rustic exterior! The parsnip has such sweet, mellow notes that it calls for a little extra bite here and there. The proof is in this soup which is livened up with…sugared walnuts! Roughly crush a cup of walnuts and a tsp of sugar together with a pestle and mortar. Gently heat the mixture in a saucepan until it turns golden – do not allow it to caramelize! - with 2 tbsp of water. Peel 500 g (1.1lbs) parsnips, cut them into quarters lengthwise and remove the cores. Cook them in a full pan of salted milk, until they are lovely and soft. Mix the preparation before incorporating a little butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and serve this soup sprinkled with sugared walnuts!
Jerusalem artichoke with chocolate
Neglected since the Second World War, this root vegetable is back in the spotlight, as all those "forgotten" vegetables return to favor, attracting the attention of chefs and foodistas. So much so, that you can even prepare it as - wait for it - a fondant, with chocolate. Peel and roughly chop a small salad bowl of Jerusalem artichoke. Cook them in a full pan of milk with the seeds of half a vanilla pod. Mix, allow to cool and then incorporate 4 stiff egg whites with 120 g (4.2 oz) of sugar. Grease 4 ramekins and fill them to halfway with your artichoke mixture. Add 3 squares of dark chocolate to each. Fill with the rest of the mixture. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes at 180 °C (350 °F).
*Recipes taken from the book "Le Meilleur du Potager", Catherine Delvaux and Alain Passard, Larousse