Glazing Root Vegetables

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

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.

-- Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

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