Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Beetroot with its Greens & Crusty Lemony Brown Rice Au Gratin

In general, root veggies, and not just potatoes, adapt well to an au gratin style which is to say they are thinly sliced, layered with cheese, covered with cream, and topped with bread crumbs or in this case, with lemon-and-parsley-flavoured, buttered brown rice.

Ingredients and basic information are in bold. I made enough for two ample servings which were baked and served in individual, shallow oven bowls (each with a capacity of 300 ml/10 fluid oz) with exceedingly nifty handles. Multiply the ingredients to get the desired quantity if you want more which can be baked in one large casserole. Cut off greens from four medium beets. Trim off most of the stalks. Wash the leaves well. Layer them, roll like a cigar, and slice thinly. Stir two finely minced garlic cloves into two tablespoons of olive oil gently warmed in a skillet. Saute for a minute or so, then add the greens. Braise covered over a low flame till mostly tender, about five minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat oven to  177 °C/350°F. Scrub beets. Cut off both ends. Peel them. Slice each beet as thinly as possible. They don't have to be paper thin, but shouldn't be more than 3 mm/.12 inch thick. A sharp or ceramic or strong serrated knife is what you need. If you have a mandolin slicer, then you are sitting pretty. Slicing them on a glass pie plate will be less messy.

Our potager is giving us a generous beet harvest

Lightly coat the dishes with olive oil. Position enough beet slices in each dish to make a slightly overlapping, substantial layer. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spread the greens on top of the beet layer, half for each dish and add 8 heaping T of grated cheese in two evenly divided doses. I used French Emmental, but any melty cheese would be fine, like cheddar or Gruyère.

Place another layer of beet slices. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together 12 heaping tablespoons of cooked brown rice, 1 T lemon zest, 1 T lemon juice, and 1 heaping T of flat parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mash lightly with a fork.

Pour 300 ml/10 fluid oz of half and half (150 ml/5 fluid oz of cream, 150 ml/5 fluid oz of milk) or till the beets are barely covered. Then top with the rice mixture, dotting it well with sweet butter. And I do mean well as in small chunks placed fairly close together. Put the dishes on a metal baking pan to catch any drips especially if they are filled to the brim.

Bake for sixty minutes or when tested with a knife, the beets are tender. Let sit for about fifteen minutes before serving. My expectation was that it would be delicious, but not as sublime as it actually turned out: silky beets, cheesy, garlicky greens slicked with olive oil, and zesty, buttery rice with most of the grains soaking up the cream along with beet juices, but some dutifully providing contrasting texture, all coming together into a fabulous melange of sour, sweet, bitter, and umami. It's a splendid meal in itself, but its crimson cheeriness would go great with a Christmas dinner of ham or turkey.

Perhaps it was baking the au gratin in these two glazed terracotta dishes that made it come out so terrific. I will try this recipe in a large, glass baking dish and see if it comes out as fantastic as this did. And how nice it would be to have enough to last several days!

We recently found them and a silver serving spoon in an outdoor flea market

À la prochaine!

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