Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Roasted vegetables

Roast potatoes

I like roasted vegetables to go alongside a roast dinner, but really they can be enjoyed with most any meal. Almost any vegetables can be roasted, so experiment a bit. Roasting brings out the natural sugars within the vegetables. You might just find that a veggie you don't much like when it's prepared by steaming or boiling tastes pretty good when roasted.

There is something about a perfectly roasted potato or parsnip, or just about any other vegetable you can think of. Lightly browned outside, crispy under your fork, and fluffy inside. Steam bringing the scent of the vegetable straight to your nose.

Roasted vegetables are incredibly easy to cook as well. All you need is an oven, a roasting tray, some oil or fat, and vegetables.

The Best Roasting Pan 

Most trays promoted for roasting vegetables have a teflon non-stick coating which is really not suitable. I have 2 or 3 formerly teflon-coated trays in the drawer that I keep around for setting casseroles on when baking. The coating itself flaked off long ago and I took a scrubber to the rest of it.

The non-stick coating found on most non-stick pans just cannot stand up to repeated use at high temperatures. Before you know it, the coating is flaking off into your dish water and your food. You're far better served investing in a baking tray that will stand up to repeated use.

The baking trays I use are similar to this, though a different brand. However, according to people who have used this particular tray it can easily withstand the higher temperatures generated when roasting vegetables. My best trays have been in use for over a decade and are still in good condition.

This is a sturdy, well-built tray that will be used in your kitchen for many years.

Nordic Ware Naturals Bakers Half Sheet

The Best Fat

If you're vegetarian or wanting to keep your fat intake low for whatever reason, then a good olive oil will work well. Skip the extra virgin or virgin grades that don't like high temperatures and use a mild olive oil. This lighter olive oil also won't add flavours to the cooking so all you will taste are the vegetables.

When I cook a roast, I save the fat and drippings in a common bowl in the fridge and use the resulting fat mixture for roasting vegetables, and basting the next roast joint.

Avoid vegetable lard and shortening simply because they are loaded with transfatty acids, and those things are really bad for you. Don't use butter, it will burn at the high temperatures you are using.



If you're really wanting to impress, or are cooking up roasted vegetables for a special occastion like Christmas dinner, then the absolute best fat you can use for roasting your vegetables is goose fat. Goose fat tolerates very high temperatures, and gives you a vegetable that is browned and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside.





French Goose Fat La belle Chaurienne-Graisse D'Oie La Belle Chaurienn

Yes, it is an indulgence, but since you're only going to use it a few times a year, it's well worth it.

Keep this fat in a clean jar in the back of your fridge and it will last you several months.

The Vegetables

Potatoes

This is the vegetable I roast most often. Allow 1 medium, or 2 small potatoes per person.


Peel the potatoes and cut them in half, quarter if larger. Parboil the potatoes by placing them in a pot of cold water and bringing the water up to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and drain the water. Shake the pan a bit just to rough up the edges of the potatoes. This'll give you some crunchy bits on the outside.
You could, if you were so inclined, use the tines of a fork just to scrape the sides after parboiling.



Parsnips

Allow 1 large parsnip for 2 - 3 people. 

Peel, top and tail it just like a carrot. Cut the lower tail off just where it starts to widen. If this tail is
much smaller than the main part of the parsnip, leave it whole, it if is about the same width, cut it lengthwise in half. For the rest of the parsnip, half or quarter it depending on the size. These do not need to be parboiled.

Other vegetables

Some ideas include carrots, beetroot, rutabaga (swede) or turnips, sweet potato, and onions
Peel the assorted vegetables and cut in half or quarter. Pieces should be about the size of a medium potato, cut in half.

Beetroot and swede need to be parboiled, but the other vegetables do not. 

Roasting Methods

Oven temperature

Preheat the oven to 425F/Gas Mark 7/220C 

I place the rack on the top level of the oven and set the temperature at Gas Mark 6/400f/200c as this is what temperature I cook a roasting joint at. Unless you have a fan-assisted oven which circulates the air, the temperature in the upper part of the oven will be about 1 gas mark higher than the temperature set. 

Of course, the lower part of the oven will be about 1 gas mark lower, so I use that to my advantage as well when cooking numerous items at once in the oven. 

Cooking with olive oil

Place all your vegetables onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, a bit of salt, and a bit of pepper. Mix them all together so the vegetables are coated with the oil. If you want, add some chopped fresh thyme or rosemary as well.

These will take about 40 minutes to cook. Put them in a small tray on the top rack in the oven. Half way through the cooking time, take them out of the oven and turn.

Cooking with fat

To roast your vegetables with fat, put the fat into the small tray and put it in the oven until it becomes very hot and spits. The fat should be hot enough that it has just about started to smoke.

Take the tray out of the oven, carefully add the vegetables and turn them to coat them all over with the fat. If any of your vegetables are wet, they will spit so be extra careful here. 

Place the tray back into the oven and roast the vegetables between 40 - 45 minutes, turning them about half way through the cooking time.


And there you have it. Delicious roast vegetables. So, what are you going to roast for your next meal?