This recipe for mixed roasted root vegetables and Brussles sprouts has fresh chopped spring herbs and lemon zest added in for freshness. Learning how to roast mixed root vegetables this way is a useful technique for an easy and delicious side dish. This is especially true if you’re part of a cold season CSA or if you have lots of potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables on hand.
Recently a friend shared a clip of an interview with Molly Stevens about recipe development. In it, she spoke about the process of writing a cookbook. I was struck by something she said about her mission: “To really learn how to cook, you’re going to have to stop following recipes. So I try to embed enough information in the recipes for people to follow them a few times then they are going to go off on their own and do their own thing.” As a recipe developer I find this really inspiring as a mission: to help readers learn and internalize the technique and then use it again without the recipe. She is talking about teaching.
Until I had seen that interview, I had seen my mission simply inspiring my readers to cook from scratch with healthy local and seasonal ingredients. But I love the idea of taking it beyond inspiration, and making it stick in a sustainable way. To teach! For me, doing this for roasting local seasonal vegetables seems like absolute must.
And ironically, my own internalization of this cooking technique and applying it to mixed roots (the fact that I do this over and over without a recipe) has prevented me from sharing this with you.
In my mind, roasting root vegetables is a technique, not so much a recipe. So I just hadn’t written it down and made it an official recipe. Which is ironic because we have roasted roots almost once a week (if not more) during the winter. Making them is second nature to me: Peel, cut according to density, toss with oil, salt and pepper, roast. Simple and delicious and a necessary survival skill when you have a winter CSA. Else you may be buried alive by rutabaga, celeriac and turnips!
When the roots come out of the oven, often they’ll just go onto the plate unadorned, their caramely burnished exteriors, more than appealing enough. Though I have been known to drizzle on balsamic vinegar, or toss with some defrosted pesto from last summer.
Today, considering there are wood frogs, ducks and geese moving into the pond (aka it’s spring!!!) I thought a springy addition of fresh herbs and lemon zest would make a nice contribution to the plate.
So let’s talk about the technique. How does it work? How do you get all the veggies to cook at the same rate? How do you get them to brown on the outside and cook through perfectly? Let’s talk.
How to Roast Root Vegetables
- Oven Temperature: I use a 400 degree oven to make root vegetables. Any hotter, and the sweeter veggies (like carrots) will over brown before the potatoes are cooked through. Any cooler and they will not brown and the potatoes will stick to the pan.
- Wash and peel the veggies. Get rid of the dirt and bitter peels. I leave the skin on potatoes and sweet potatoes for added fiber.
- Cut veggies mindfully: The trickiest part about mixing root vegetables and getting them to roast evenly is all in the size of the cuts. So you have to plan accordingly and cut some smaller and some larger to compensate for the different densities. Generally the harder the vegetable the longer it takes to cook through. So carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and beets are very hard and they take the longest to soften. These you can cut slightly smaller. Celeriac, parsnips and potatoes are slightly softer and can be cut a little larger. To give you a sense of what I mean, today, I cut my potatoes into 1 1/2 inch chunks and my celeriac into 1-inch chunks.
- Toss with oil salt and pepper in a big bowl to coat them evenly. You have to be careful about adding herbs and garlic because they tend to burn before the vegetables are tender. Spices like smoked paprika and turmeric are okay. I save the bowl and use it again at the end to add in the flavorings (see tip #8.)
- Don’t overcrowd: You want to allow air flow around the vegetables so that they brown. Moisture prevents caramelization. Crowded vegetables insulate each-other from the hot heat of the oven. They end up steaming and will not brown. So if you have too many veggies to fit on a pan, just use two. Arrange your racks evenly in the oven to allow plenty of air flow, and plan to rotate your pans half way. I’ll often use convection if I am doing two pans.
- Stir only once or twice. If you try to stir the veggies too soon, they will stick to the pan. This is particularly the case with potatoes. So let them develop a nice brown bottom before turning them with a spatula.
- How do you know when they are done? I usually try to chop a couple in half with the side of a thin spatula. If they seem tender, then I’ll eat one to make sure. Very scientific!
- Add vinegar, pesto or herbs and such after they come back out of the oven.
Do you take a recipe, use it a few times and then strike out on your own?
Do you mix your roots?
What do you toss in with your roasted vegetables?
This side dish is a favorite all winter long and into the spring. Today I made a mix of root vegetables and added in some whole Brussels sprouts. I roasted everything together then tossed it with fresh tender spring herbs and lemon zest.
- 4 medium-small thin-skinned potatoes, cut into 1 ¼–inch chunks (11 oz or 2 cups)
- 4 large carrots, peeled and oblique cut into 3/4 –inch chunks (8 oz or 2 cups)
- 2 small celeriac, peeled and cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks (about 13 oz or 3 cups)
- 3 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed (halved if very large) (10 oz)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup chopped tender herbs, such as chives, dill, tarragon and chervil
- zest from one lemon, or to taste
- Arrange oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss potatoes, carrots, celeriac and Brussels sprouts with oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread out on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring twice, until the vegetables are tender and browning, 30 to 38 minutes. Return the vegetables to the bowl and add the herbs and zest. Toss to coat. Serve warm.