Winter Rainbow Gratin

I love this gratin recipe. Comforting creamy vegetables without the heaviness of a lot of butter and cream. And, as far as gratins go, it really couldn't be easier.

Instead of making a flour and butter roux, this gratin relies on slightly caramelized vegetables that bring both the comfort and the flavor to this recipe. While from start to finish, this does take a little over an hour to make, most of that time is baking or browning. Once you get the vegetables chopped up (which is the most labor-intensive part of this recipe), all you have to do is let them brown in a skillet for about 15 minutes and then place in the oven for 40 minutes. Amazingly, I was able to prep AND clean up in 35 minutes!

The original recipe in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking used purple potatoes and red-fleshed sweet potatoes, which contribute to the dish's rainbow effect. I had yukon gold potatoes and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes on hand so that's what I used. However, if you can find colorful vegetables use them! We need all the rainbows we can get this time of year!

I rarely buy bread crumbs. It seems silly to me since I always have bread on hand. For this recipe, I just dropped a couple pieces of bread (I like to use the ends of a loaf when possible) into my food processor. A couple pulses later and I have coarse bread crumbs. Because we are baking for a while, the bread crumbs didn't need to be dried out; the oven did that for me. It worked great.

I love the fact that I can use my cast iron skillet to brown the vegetables and then just slip it into the oven to bake. However, I didn't always have an oven-proof skillet. If you don't have one, don't worry. Brown the vegetables in your skillet, and then when you are ready to put it into the oven, transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. You will have the same effect; the only difference is that you'll have one more dish to wash.

Winter Rainbow Gratin
4 servings, 75 minutes (35 minute prep; 40 minute bake)

3 tablespoons clarified butter (or olive oil)
2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 large shallots, sliced
4 green onions, chopped
1 apple (or pear), unpeeled, cored, and cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, shallots, and onions.
  3. Heat the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prepared vegetables and toss to coat in the butter. Let the vegetables brown for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. You will need a large pan for this or you can split the vegetables between two skillets.
  4. Once the vegetables are brown but not mushy, remove from heat and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add the apple and stir well to combine. (If needed, at this time transfer the vegetables to an oven-proof casserole dish if your skillet isn't oven-proof.)
  5. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and half of the Parmesan cheese on the top of the vegetables. Don't stir.
  6. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring once about halfway through.
  7. Remove from heat, top with the remaining cheese and serve. 
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
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