Monday, March 9, 2009

The Bitter With The Sweet

When I resolved to buy new-to-me ingredients every time I went to the store, little did I know I'd end up with a crisper full of strange root-like veggies, all clamoring to be used at once.

I had picked up a rutabaga in honor of my mother who forced us to choke down steamed rutabaga about once a year - I think she thought it built character. We didn't and it didn't, as far as I can tell, but I decided to give it another try on the strength of my success with the formerly-hated kale.

I had also snagged a couple of parsnips, something Mom hated so never cooked and I had never tasted. Seemed like a good year to try them. We had purchased some pale and beautiful Belgian endive for some recipe that then I forgot to clip out of the newspaper. Plus onions; the last time My Beloved went to the store for me, he loaded up on onions for some mysterious reason.

All these veggies had languished in the crisper awaiting my inspiration, which was slow in coming. So, My Beloved being away on a business trip and me being left alone with the shouting roots and shoots, I decided to make some kind of layered casserole-type bake that I could eat and reheat easily, something like potatoless scalloped potatoes. I didn't have much milk but I did have some chicken broth, cider and bacon. I thought that perhaps the bitter rutabaga, parsnips and endive would be jazzed with the salty bacon and sweetened with the apple juice.

This is a recipe that rewards a food processor or a mandoline; there's a lot of slicing to be done. As I sizzled the bacon, I sliced all four veggies thinly, then layered them messily in eight layers (two sets of each veggie) with the bacon lardons into a cast iron frying pan that I had liberally painted with bacon fat. (Another time, I'd just cook the bacon in the same pan I used for the layering and pour out most of the fat but I had planned to use my fancypants casserole/serving dish before I ran out of room in it and switched to the frying pan).

Over the layers, I poured a mixture of about a cup of chicken broth, a cup of apple cider and a half cup of milk (all in the fridge, needing eating). I left out the salt as the bacon was salty and I wish I'd remembered to pepper the layers, too, but oh, well...

Because it seemed a little scant on liquids compared to other bakes I've made, I covered the skillet with aluminum foil to retain some moisture and slid it into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes before uncovering it and baking for an additional 40 minutes or so.

The dish has promise but I'm not sure I have the heart to keep trying with it. First, there was plenty of moisture in the veggies so tenting just prolonged the cooking - not a good thing. It needed more bacon and some salt - too bland by half - and the forgotten pepper would have helped, too! The apple juice was a sad mistake - 'way too sweet!

Cooking is like this sometimes, disappointingly unlike what one had in mind. The dish I had hoped to make was savory rather than sweet and somehow richer, more of a one-dish meal. Ah, well, as Mom would have said, in life you must take the bitter with the sweet - it builds character.

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Blogger namastenancy said...

I don't know about the endive but the other root vegetables are delicious roasted. If I want them a bit sweet, I drizzle with with some brown sugar mixed with balsamic vinegar when I take them out of the oven. There's a Belgium/Flemish beef stew made with beer that's also great with root vegetables and it tastes better heated up.

Monday, March 09, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I just don't know what to say. It looks so pretty. You were so brave and imaginative.
Well. You got a larnin' experience out of it, and I hope you will continue to be innovative. You will.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009  
Blogger peter said...

Those roots are some of my favorite things, and when they're fresh and in season they're very sweet. But I bet with tinkering this will be a winner.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, I'll have to look up the Belgian/Flemish stew - that sounds great!

Cookiecrumb, pretty is as pretty does - I'm just full of my mother's sayings these days. :-)

Peter, just need to try, try again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009  

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