One of my favorite ways to cook small, whole firm root vegetables is to bury them in kosher salt and roast them. It yields an extraordinarily pure flavor and creamy interior.
The method transforms Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes); shallots; carrots; parsnips; beets; large, whole garlic cloves and especially potatoes. The trick is to chose vegetables under-2-inches-in-diameter.
Place the dish of vegetables in salt on the table (on a trivet) with a serving spoon or a long fork for your guests to dig them out, a curiously primal experience.
Pass whatever accompaniments you have on hand like fine unsalted butter, extra-virgin olive oil, crème fraïche. Fresh snipped chives, parsley or other mild herbs are lovely, as is black pepper and cracked toasted coriander seeds. A good flakey sea salt is essential.
You can re-use the salt several times. Simply discard clumps that have absorbed juices and discolored. When cool, store in a plastic bag or jar in your pantry until ready to use gain. To break up chunks of salt, use a vegetable masher. Add new salt as necessary.
The combination of creme fraïche or butter, coriander and chives is particularly delicious one to keep in mind for other foods as well, from all manner of potatoes and root vegetables — parsnips, turnips, celery root, onions — to roasted salmon or striped bass.
Here’s the simple method (My photos were for a lone vegetarian dinner for one — me — with leftovers for lunch the next day):
Salt-Roasted Potatoes, Shallots, Garlic, Sunchokes and Other Root Vegetables
If you like you can mix the salt with small sprigs of rosemary or thyme. The vegetables don’t have to be completely buried, just nestled into the salt and mostly covered. You can scale the recipe up and use different size and shape pans. Long vegetables such as carrots and parsnips do well in a rectangular pan.
A 3-pound box (or more) coarse/kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds whole, unpeeled vegetables no larger than 2-inches in diameter such as new potatoes, Yellow Finnish or Bintje; baby carrots or parsnips; shallots; Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes); baby turnips; beets; large, whole garlic cloves
fine unsalted butter
creme fraïche or sour cream
extra-virgin olive oil
fresh snipped chives, parsley or other mild herbs
freshly ground black pepper
cracked toasted coriander seeds
flakey sea salt, such as Maldon
Preheat the oven to 400′.
Spread a 1/2 inch-thick layer of salt in a large, 2 or 3-inch deep ovenproof pan or dish.
Nestle the vegetables in the salt spaced about 1/2-inch space apart.
Cover completely with salt.
Bake until tender, about 40 – 45 minutes, depending on the size and hardness of the vegetables. To test for doneness, use a skewer to spear a vegetable through the salt; it should pierce the flesh easily. AND/OR dig out one of the vegetables and press; it should split open easily.
Let the dish cool 5 minutes before serving.
Place little bowls of your accompaniments on a platter or tray to make them easy to pass.