Rich and Creamy Salsify Gratin

Contributed by Gabriel Kreuther

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR
  • SERVINGS: 10

Salsify is a root vegetable that's shaped like a skinny parsnip and has blackish skin with white flesh. It tastes a little like artichoke hearts. It's available from June through February.

  1. 3 pounds salsify
  2. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 quart half-and-half
  5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  6. Freshly grated nutmeg
  7. 1/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  8. 1/4 pound Gruyère cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  1. Fill a large bowl with water. Peel the salsify and trim the ends. Transfer the salsify to the water as you peel it. Using a mandoline or the slicing blade in a food processor, slice the salsify 1/4 inch thick. Return the salsify to the water to keep it white.
  2. In a large soup pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Add the half-and-half and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, for about 3 minutes, or until the half-and-half is slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Drain the salsify and pat it completely dry. Add the salsify to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400° and position a rack in the upper third. Pour the salsify mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the cheeses. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the gratin is bubbling. Preheat the broiler and broil the gratin for about 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is golden and crusty. Let the gratin stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Serves 6

3 lemons
1 pound salsify
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons organic walnut balsamic (from that great oil and vinegar store in the elbow of Frenchtown), more for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar or drop of honey
1 tablespoon truffle oil, optional
Baby salad greens such as arugula, mizuna, or kale

Fill a large bowl with cold water and halve and squeeze in two of the lemons. Rinse the salsify them peel with a vegetable peeler and drop in the acidulated water.

Put about 2 quarts of water in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Halve and squeeze the last lemon into it, add 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons of the oil, and whisk in the flour. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile slice the salsify into bite size pieces and return to the acidulated water. When blanc is boiling, drain the salsify and add to the pot. Simmer until tender, about 5 minutes, then drain.

In a small bowl combine the vinegar with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste, then whisk in the oils. Check seasoning, add a bit of lemon if you like. Steal a tiny bit of the vinaigrette for tossing the greens, then add the warm salsify to the rest and toss.  Mound salsify on a plate and scatter greens around it. Add another drizzle of balsamic to the plate and serve.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's salsify recipes

Bored with the same old winter veg day after day? Well, give salsify a go and you may never look back

You may have discovered them poking out like a rather grubby giant's pencil from among the potatoes and carrots in your weekly veg box, or maybe you've seen them at the farmers' market, standing tall and proud alongside the leeks. Salsify and scorzonera are beautiful names for rather unprepossessing roots, but if they're unfamiliar to you, I urge you to get intimate with them. They appear at a time when we're all wondering what else we could possibly do with a parsnip or how to reinvent the cabbage, so they offer the cook a range of delightful new possibilities.

Salsify is paler, slightly sweeter and silkier than the darker, crisper scorzonera with its dramatic, sooty skin, but you can use them interchangeably in recipes, including these. They're also known as the "oyster plant" and if you cook them with a little butter and wine, you may well discern about them a subtle hint of that esteemed bivalve.

If you fancy growing your own, they're a doddle. At River Cottage, we grow Mammoth and Giant salsify and Russian Giant scorzonera, both of which need little more than free-draining soil and a bit of water in dry spells to crop reliably. Just sow the little, banana-shaped seeds directly in the soil in April or May, 15cm apart and 1cm deep. The only tricky part is harvesting them – pulling the skinny roots unbroken from the soil is an exercise in patience.

The simplest way to prepare these lovely roots is to peel them, put them in a roasting tin, trickle over a little olive or rapeseed oil, add a few bashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf, and roast at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 20 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, or follow Jane Grigson's excellent suggestion and sprinkle on some gremolata, that zingy southern Italian condiment made of lemon zest, finely chopped garlic and parsley. Or boil or steam them until just tender, chop small and serve with a mustardy, garlicky vinaigrette and perhaps a few pieces of diced ham, rather as you might with a celeriac remoulade.

Salsify fritters

A great brunch or lunch dish, and perfect served alongside a few crisp rashers and a fried or poached egg. Makes six fritters.

300g salsify
45g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red chilli, finely diced
3 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Peel and coarsely grate the salsify. Warm 20g of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the salsify until softened. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, chilli, coriander, egg and flour. Season generously, then form into six fritters. Warm the remaining butter and the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the fritters until golden, about four minutes a side.

Salsify tempura with a spicy dipping sauce

Crisp, battered salsify is delicious with this easy dipping sauce, but it's also great served simply with a little flaky sea salt and a few lemon wedges. Serves four as a starter.

3-4 salsify or scorzonera roots

For the batter
125g plain flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 egg yolk
175ml ice-cold sparkling water

For the dipping sauce
2 medium red chillies, deseeded, membrane and seeds removed, and finely diced
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 tbsp caster sugar
100ml cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
About 1 litre sunflower or groundnut oil for frying

First, make the dipping sauce. Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan, place over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Now raise the heat a little, bring up to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrupy, about five minutes. Pour into a small bowl and set to one side until you are ready to serve.

Fill a medium-large saucepan with water, bring to a boil and cook the salsify for five minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water, then rub off the skins and cut the salsify into 4cm pieces. Whisk the ingredients for the batter – don't worry if it turns out a bit lumpy.

Heat 10cm of oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan until it registers 180C on a frying thermometer or a cube of bread goes brown in 30 seconds. Dip the salsify in the batter and deep-fry a few pieces at a time until crisp and golden, about a minute. Serve at once with the spicy dipping sauce. alongside.

Salsify gratin

The perfect accompaniment to a Sunday roast (incidentally, this is different from the recipe I wrote for this magazine in Christmas 2007). Serves four.

35g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
Juice of 1 lemon
850g salsify (about 8 roots)
1 litre vegetable stock
150ml dry white wine
60g kale (or cabbage), washed and finely shredded
25g plain flour
150ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g grated cheddar or other hard, well-flavoured cheese
50g coarse white breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6 and butter a gratin dish about 26cm in length. Put the lemon juice into a large bowl along with some cold water. One by one, peel each salsify root, cut into 4cm x 1cm batons and drop straight into the lemon water to prevent discolouring. Repeat with all the roots.

When the salsify has been prepared, drain and transfer to a saucepan along with the stock and wine. Bring up to a simmer and cook for five minutes, until tender but still with a bit of bite.

While the salsify is cooking, put the kale in a large pan with a centimetre or two of water and cook for about three minutes, until wilted. Drain the salsify, reserving the stock, and set aside. Return the stock to the pan and simmer until reduced by half.

Meanwhile, mash together the butter and flour with a fork. When the stock has reduced, keep it simmering and add the flour paste in little nuggets, whisking all the time. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens to the consistency of single cream. Stir in the double cream and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Lay the salsify and kale in the gratin dish, and pour over the creamy sauce. Combine the cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.