Parsnips are terribly underrated roots. They’re shaped like carrots and they’re sweet like carrots, but I’ve always found their flavor much more interesting. Along with the sweet is a nutty, herbaceous and almost wild flavor, entirely unlike the tame carrot.
When added to a beef stew or chicken in a pot along with the usual carrots and potatoes, parsnips add another interesting flavor layer. They also bake up nice and tender and creamy, making them wonderful gratin candidates. This recipe would make a nice Sunday dinner accompaniment to serve with roast beef or lamb or perhaps an alternative Thanksgiving side.
Parsnip, Mushroom and Leek Gratin
1 1 /2 pound parsnips 1 tablespoon butter plus more for buttering dish 2 tablespoons olive oil 4-5 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms (king trumpets, oysters or whatever is good), cleaned and sliced 3 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and sliced lengthwise 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 1/3 cup dry white wine 1 cup Parmesan cheese 1 3/4 cup heavy cream Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Peel parsnips and slice about 1/4 inch thick on an extreme angle so as to get the largest slices possible. Butter a 12 x 8 inch inch baking dish and preheat the oven to 400 ° F.
In a medium skillet, over medium high heat, warm the butter and olive oil. Add mushrooms and leeks along with a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they release all of their liquid and begin to brown. Add thyme and white wine and cook, stirring, until wine evaporates. Set aside.
Begin to layer the ingredients into the dish beginning with a single layer of parsnip slices, followed by salt and pepper, followed by half of the leek/mushroom mixture and half the Parmesan. Repeat with parsnips, more salt and pepper, the remaining leek/mushroom mixture, and most of the remaining Parmesan, reserving a little for the top.
The final layer should consist of the remaining parsnips. Pour the cream over and push down with the back of a spoon to submerge everything as much as possible. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top and cover with foil. Bake for ½ hour, Uncover and check for tenderness. When the parsnips are nearly tender, uncover and continue to bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until the top begins to brown and all the cream has been absorbed. Let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.