Thanksgiving has come and gone, its passing has left Los Angeles the gift of rain. So I’m going to make something warm and cozy. Something my mother might make. Maybe we’ll spend this first rainy evening having dinner in front of the fire. We have four leather chairs that pull around a table by the fireplace in a sort of a gentlemen’s club arrangement. Dining there suits the mood that prevails in this old house when the weather turns gray. It’s easy for my warm and cozy thoughts to turn to a gratin – a root vegetable gratin with sweet potato, celery root, and rutabaga.
My mother would call these thinly sliced vegetables “scalloped” but she and I would be thinking the same thing.
I’m not planning to scour the web looking for just the right root vegetable gratin. Nope, this time I want something warm and familiar. So I’ve adapted my standard “scalloped” potato gratin with Emmental cheese, cream and of course mustard (two ways). A little grainy mustard in the cream sauce and some whole mustard seeds sprinkled over the top for a nutty burst of heat in the crusty bits. Yummy!
Root Vegetable Gratin
The key to this Root Vegetable Gratin with Mustard Cream (or really any gratin including my mother’s scalloped potatoes) is in having all the vegetables sliced the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. Make friends with a mandoline: It quickly yields precise, even slices. I also like to blanch the vegetables in a milky solution. They bake creamier that way and much more evenly. If you’ll read the recipe you’ll see that the mandoline and the blanching are not the only shortcuts I take with this classic recipe. In this version, I skip the laborious béchamel and simply layer the root vegetables with grated cheese and a sprinkle of flour. Then when I pour the mustard-cream sauce over the top the béchamel makes itself while baking.
That’s it! Serve it while it’s hot and bring on the rain! “Just don’t track muddy footprints all over the house” (that was my mother speaking)… GREG