I made a root vegetable (carrot, turnip, and beet) gratin for Christmas dinner and it was a delicate, sweeter alternative to a more traditional potato version. Using only carrot boosts the sweet notes, and because they are sliced paper thin (assembling the gratin feels akin to making something with brilliant orange fish scales), you need only 20 minutes for tender crisp carrots. Cloaked in curried cream, with melted leek and garlic providing some structure, I will definitely be making this again. —gingerroot
4-6 as a side
medium carrots (preferably organic), peeled
whole head garlic
large leek or 2 smaller leeks
fragrant curry powder
1 1/2 cups
cream or half-and-half
finely grated Emmentaler plus more if needed (can substitute another mild, nutty swiss cheese)
FOR THE MELTED LEEKS & GARLIC: Preheat oven to 375. Prep garlic and leek(s). For garlic, slice of about 1/2 inch from bottom of whole head. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. For leek(s), thoroughly wash and trim end and green top, so only white and tender pale green part remain. Slice, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. Place your two packets on a baking sheet and roast until tender 45-50 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Combine melted leek slices and garlic popped out of papery skins in a small bowl. Add curry powder and mash to combine thoroughly, breaking up the roasted garlic cloves. Set aside, reserving about 1 Tablespoon of mixture in another bowl (I had about 1/3 cup of curried leek and garlic mixture). Turn your oven up to 400 degrees.
Using a straight slicer (or mandoline if you have one) carefully slice carrot into paper thin rounds. You will have a heap of them.
Assemble the gratin, by adding glug of olive oil to the bottom of a shallow round (10 inch) ceramic baking dish. Smear and spread about 1 teaspoon of curried leek and garlic mixture on the bottom of dish. Begin layering in the carrot rounds, you want them to slightly overlap. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cheese on top of the carrots. Repeat layers two more times, however before you end with your final cheese top, dot reserved tablespoon of curried leek and garlic on the surface. End with cheese, grating more if necessary to cover the gratin.
Steam cream or half-and-half over low heat in a saucepan. Beat egg in a small bowl and temper by slowly adding 1/2 cup of warm cream, whisking to combine. Gradually whisk egg-cream mixture back into saucepan with remaining liquid. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, stirring to combine.
Carefully ladle warmed cream-egg mixture over carrot mixture, gently pressing down edges of top layer. Liquid should come up about halfway in the dish. Cook for 20 minutes. If you want a golden brown top, turn up the oven to 450 for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Allow gratin to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.