No, this is not a character from a George R. R. Martin book (or at least, if it is I haven’t met her yet). This is a vegetable side dish that I encountered in, yes, Ireland. But it’s French in origin, and it’s a handy kind of dish to keep in your back pocket to go with chicken or meat (no, not literally in your pocket). In my case it accompanied some really nice lamb chops. at the West Cork Hotel.
One online foodie dictionary gave this description:
A French specialty made from a composite of ingredients that are cooked or baked.
Originally, a tian referred to a Provençal-style bake of mixed vegetables, roasted in a gratin style. The word can also be used to describe any type of casserole-style course, from a braised vegetable stew to a layered dessert.
The term was derived from the clay cooking vessel that is to prepare the dish.
I’d never heard the term tian, and when it arrived on my plate at the restaurant I quailed: there were beets. I do not like beets. I spent most of my childhood gagging over beets. Nowadays I tolerate them like a grown-up when I have no choice (I’ve even eaten them in a sandwich), but seldom if ever have I eaten them by choice, much less prepared them.
This dish may have changed my mind. I’ve always found beets cloyingly sweet, but in this case, the sugar in the beets manages to caramelize itself and create a lovely brown finish to the vegetables.
What I was served was about as simple as it could be: cubed beets and carrots. I ate all of it. Lots of recipes call for more and different vegetables, often potatoes or tomatoes or zucchini and onions, and occasionally garlic. I decided to stick to a basic version, with the beets (fresh, not canned!), carrots, and some parsnips for contrast (they taste a lot like carrots but they’re a different color).
Tian of Winterroots, aka Roasted Root Vegetables
2 large carrots (in Ireland, that’s really large!), peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
|Okay, it's a trick photo: the birds are quail. But|
the carrots are big!
|Here are the real ingredients|
2 small (young) beets, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
Parboil the cubed carrots and parsnips in salted water until they soften slightly (less than five minutes--do not let them cook through). Drain and let dry a bit.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss all the vegetables in olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
In a roasting pan (use two if you need to) spread the vegetable pieces in a single layer—you don’t want the bits to be crowded. Roast until they are lightly browned and tender, about 40 minutes. You can stir them with a spatula to make sure they aren’t sticking to the pan and they cook evenly.
|Yes, they shrink when they cook|
Remove from the oven and toss with additional olive oil if the bits look dry. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
The roasting enhances the flavor of the vegetables and turns them to a lovely brown. Yes, they may look charred, but that’s the caramelization. The vegetables are still soft and slightly sweet. Don’t overcook them or they will shrivel up and look sad.
Feel free to experiment with different vegetables (use your judgment: snow peas and broccoli are not going to roast well!), and add herbs (fresh if you have them) if you like.
You’ll notice that all the work (the chopping) goes on at the beginning, which leaves you free to deal with the rest of your meal while the vegetables roast. Note: this recipe made enough for two or three reasonable servings, so if you’re serving a crowd, you’ll be doing a lot of chopping. But you can do that ahead, or recruit a crowd to help.
I sneaked in a new ebook! Watch for the Dead is the fourth book in the Relatively Dead series, released this week. This one's set on Cape Cod. Here's a brief description: