Roasted Winter Root Vegetables with Browned Butter

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by Joan MacIsaac

Roasted root vegetables are sweeter than steamed, boiled or raw for two reasons. First, roasting causes water to evaporate thereby intensifying the proportion of natural sugars.  The dry heat causes the vegetables' sugars to brown or caramelize and creates a more intense, deeper sweetness. The key to roasting root vegetables is to cut the vegetables into even size pieces so that they cook evenly. If your parsnip tips are thinner, cut those pieces a little longer so that the thicker part of the parsnip will roast evenly with the carrots and turnips. Also, if your carrots are larger than a 2-inch diameter, it's a good idea to cut them in half lengthwise. 

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

2 lbs. carrots, peeled with tops and bottoms trimmed

2 lbs. parsnips, peeled with tops and bottoms trimmed

2 lbs. purple top turnips, peeled with tops and bottoms trimmed

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 t. salt

Cracked black pepper to taste

¼ cup unsalted butter.


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the root vegetables into 2 inch pieces and toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay the root vegetables on a sheet pan and spread them so they do not overlap each other; use a second sheet pan if necessary.

Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, flip or toss the vegetable around so they can brown more evenly. Continue roasting for 10 - 15 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned.

Just before service melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook the butter for 3 - 5 minutes. The butter will begin to froth and bubble as the water evaporates.  Once the frothing and bubbling finish, the butter's milk solids on the bottom of the pan will start to brown and turn golden. Allow the milk solids to brown lightly and remove the pan from the heat. The browned butter has a nutty smell and taste. 

Place the root vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle the butter over the top. Taste the vegetables for salt and pepper and season accordingly.

Optional: It's nice to add sage leaves and finely diced shallots to the browned butter just as the particles have turned brown. If you do this, continue cooking for 1 minute on a low flame to ensure the shallots are softened.