Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Parsnip and Potato Gratin--Variation on an Old Theme

Many people confuse parsnip with parsley root. Although quite similar in their look, they are different in taste and aroma. But the most distinguishing difference between them is that parsley leaves (flat leaved parsley, also called Italian parsley) are very good and are used widely as a herb in many cuisines, while parsnip leaves are toxic and cause a similar to poison ivy reaction. For that reason, parsley root is often sold with leaves, but parsnip never.

Being Polish I am very familiar with parsley root, which we use in soups and salads for its strong aroma, but much less with parsnip. However, I have been happy to learn recently that this unassuming and easily available tuber, especially in the fall, is also very healthy. It is very reach in vitamins, most of all vitamin C, antioxidants, vitamin B complex group, folic acid, and vitamin K.

Among many parsnip recipes I found in different culinary sources there was one idea that sounded interesting--parsnip and potato gratin. Adding parsnip makes this well-known and easy potato dish slightly sweet and more aromatic. I made it last week and served it with green salad as a main dinner dish.

Parsnip and Potato Gratin

1 lb potatoes,
1/2 lb parsnip,
1 medium onion,
2 garlic cloves,
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère or Cheddar cheese,
one cup table cream or half and half,
1/2 stick of butter,
salt, freshly ground pepper,
a pinch of nutmeg.

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2.Peel off potatoes, parsnip, and onion. Slice them thinly.

2.Grease a shallow oven-proof dish with butter.
3. Put half of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Cover with sliced parsnip and onion. Put on top small pieces of butter and half of the cheese.

4. Cover with the rest of potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese on top.
5. Heat the cream until hot and pour over the vegetables.
6. Bake for an hour until vegetable are soft and the cheese bubbling and gold.