Tips on how to glaze root vegetables
Special to The Washington Post
I am often asked what advantages going to cooking school has given me. Knife skills, an ability to roll with the kitchen’s punches and a mastery of basic techniques are the obvious and true answers. But they don’t compare to my favorite trick.
Somewhere between American Regional Cuisine and International Cooking, I picked up a 15-minute method that has saved many a dinner party and holiday meal: glazing root vegetables. Here’s what to do.
• First, cut carrots, parsnips, turnips or the like – any root vegetable or combination of root vegetables will work – into bite-size pieces. Make them as uniform in size as possible.
• Melt a pat of butter or heat some oil – enough to lightly coat all the pieces – in a saucepan just large enough to comfortably hold the vegetables. If desired, this is the time to add ginger, garlic or onions to boost the flavor.
• Add the vegetables, stir to coat, and then add some liquid. Choose a liquid that is a little sweet (or boost its sweetness with a teaspoon or two of sugar) and that will taste good when it has reduced. Chicken stock or broth (with a bit of sugar), apple cider, white balsamic vinegar, mirin (a sweet rice wine) and clear fruit juices all fill the bill. Add a pinch of salt.
• Bring the liquid to a boil and cover the pan. Adjust the heat to maintain a low boil. After about six minutes, start checking for doneness: The vegetables should be tender but not mushy. Uncover, increase the heat and quickly reduce the liquid to a glaze; this will take only a minute or two.
• Serve as is or garnish with chopped herbs, freshly ground black pepper, sesame seeds or whatever seems right. The dish can hold without deteriorating for 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare other parts of a meal.
Mirin-Glazed ParsnipsWith Ginger and Scallions
1 tablespoon mild olive or vegetable oil
3 scallions, white and light-green parts, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1Ú4 cup)
2 to 3 teaspoons minced ginger root
1 pound parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into 3Ú4 -inch chunks
1Ú3 cup mirin
1Ú3 cup water
Pinch of salt
Heat the oil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the parsnips over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the scallions and cook for 2 minutes, until they soften. Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute, then add the parsnips and stir to combine. Add the mirin, water and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil and quickly cover the pan; adjust the heat to medium or as needed so the liquid stays at a steady but controlled boil. After 6 minutes, begin checking the parsnips. They are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork, but they should not be mushy. The cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces; it should take 8 to 10 minutes.
Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high and cook for a minute or two, until the liquid reduces to a glaze. Transfer the parsnips and glaze to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of sliced scallions. Serve hot. Makes four servings.
NUTRITION: Per serving: 159 calories, 1 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 101 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber
One of the fastest and most delicious ways to cook root vegetables is to let them steam on the stovetop in a small amount of flavorful liquid, then let that liquid reduce to a glaze.
Here, the liquid used is mirin, a sweet rice wine used in Japanese cooking. Choose a golden-colored mirin for the best flavor.