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Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

Intensely nutty hazelnuts echo the taste of butter cooked until rich golden brown. The deep flavor of both the toasted nuts and brown butter pairs well with the earthy root vegetables, whose high level of natural sugars caramelize when roasted. Fragrant thyme leaves impart an herbal taste to the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 parsnips, about 1 lb. total
  • 1 sweet potato, about 1 lb.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme

Directions:

In a small, dry fry pan over medium-low heat, toast the hazelnuts until they turn a deep brown and are fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. While the nuts are still warm, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and rub the nuts vigorously to remove the skins; it is fine if some bits of skin remain. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 425°F. Drizzle 1 1/2 Tbs. of the oil onto each of 2 rimmed baking sheets. Place the sheets in the oven to preheat while you prepare the vegetables.

Peel the parsnips and sweet potato, then cut them into pieces about 1/2 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and divide the vegetables between them. Season lightly with salt and pepper, toss the vegetables to coat them with the warm oil and spread them out in a single layer. Roast until the undersides are nicely browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn each piece once or twice and roast until the vegetables are browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes more.

In a small fry pan over medium heat, warm the butter, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn brown and smell nutty, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts and thyme.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large bowl, drizzle with the browned butter mixture and toss gently to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables, by Jodi Liano (Oxmoor House, 2008).