Did you notice a chill in the air the other day? Not the kind of fluke temperature drop that comes after a big storm, but a true seasonal chill. I even broke out the winter clothes (long sleeved T-shirts) to protect my frail self from the cold autumnal winds. But this year, I’m not complaining about life-altering cool temps, I’m embracing them, because I really need something to get me in the mood for Thanksgiving and the awesome fall flavors that come with the season.
Last year, I had to force myself to write anything about Thanksgiving but this year, I’m more comfortable with the idea. Maybe I’ve mellowed a bit in the last year; I mean, being constantly right about everything all the time can wear a person out. Instead, I’ve decided to look at Thanksgiving from another angle. In the past, I’ve always cringed at those who suddenly become food experts when it comes to their Thanksgiving Day meal. They shamelessly gloat over their family shoemaker recipes for items like a sweet potato casserole, “First purchase 800 pounds of brown sugar, then open a large can of precooked sweet potatoes.” My word, does that not sound delicious?
Real autumnal flavors are what’s exciting about this time of year. Time to break out the winter squashes, celebrate the glories of mushrooms, apples, pears, fennel, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, celery root and many others.
A chef’s job is to enhance flavors, not mask or change them. Do sweet potatoes need added sugar? No. They’re called “sweet” potatoes for a reason. An outstanding way to summon the natural sugars of these tubers is to roast them at a moderately high temperature to caramelize the natural sugars. Brilliant! By the way, they pair extremely well with smoked sausages.
Sweet potatoes are not the only fall foods that benefit from proper roasting. Because most root vegetables contain a good amount of natural sugars, high-heat roasting can really turn these humble products into the superstars of an autumn meal
One idea is to mix several different tubers and roast them together; say, parsnips, carrots and celery root. Simply cut to similar shapes, toss them with a dry seasoning blend of garlic, ginger, allspice, salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in a 400°F convection oven. They’re ready when they become soft and caramelized. Just finish them with squirt of fresh lemon juice. Or try these roasted Brussels sprouts with parmesan and pancetta. YUM! Your Thanksgiving will be better for them.
CHEF BILL’S Parmesan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
- 3 oz. pancetta, diced
- 3 tbsp. roasted garlic oil
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 splash sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim and cut the Brussels sprouts in half from top to bottom.
- Toss in the garlic oil with the pancetta and salt and pepper.
- Wrap them in a foil package with the thyme, place on a sheet pan and roast at 400˚F for 20-30 minutes or until brown and soft. Unwrap the foil, add the grated parmesan and cook 10 minutes more.
- Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and adjust the seasoning.
Until we cook again,
Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at email@example.com to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!