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Root Vegetable Gratin with Thyme & Nutmeg (Nutmeg)

For optimum results, start with a whole nutmeg and grate it yourself just before using. The warm, spicy fragrance and slightly sweet flavor will be more intense than if you use preground nutmeg. Choose any combination of nutritious roots for this gratin, including parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, golden beets and rutabagas. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a sweet, nutty flavor that picks up the flavors of the nutmeg and the root vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices artisan-style sourdough bread, each about 1⁄2 inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1⁄3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 lb. root vegetables (see note above), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄2 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1⁄4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 300°F.

Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and dry, 20 to 25 minutes. Rub one side of each warm bread slice with one of the garlic cloves. Let the bread cool and tear into chunks. Put the bread chunks in a food processor, in batches if necessary, and process until coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a bowl and mix with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and the cheese. Set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.

Mince the remaining garlic clove. In a large ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil Add the root vegetables, salt, a few grindings of pepper, the thyme, nutmeg and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add 1⁄4 cup water, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender when pierced, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and transfer the vegetables to a casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the bread-crumb mixture. Bake until the top is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well, by Charity Ferreira (Oxmoor House, 2008).