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.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

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.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

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.

Serves 4

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

Possible accompaniments:
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.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Nestle the vegetables in the salt spaced about 1/2-inch space apart.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Cover completely with salt.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

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.

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4 replies on “Salt-Roasted Root Vegetables: Potatoes, Shallots, Sunchokes and Others

  1. I’m very disappointed to see a post like this on your site. 99.99% of the population are ingesting excessive amounts of sodium, and there is no need to add to this problem. I’ve been studying this issue for 12 years and I know the field very well. In my food businesses I never needed to add salt to this extent, and still always managed to get paid by my clients. Salt consumption is a driver of heart disease, stroke (independent of hypertension), cancer especially stomach cancer, eczema, ulcers, osteoporosis, anaemia, and more. Have the Salt Institute of America paid you to feature this recipe? I love almost every single one of your articles but not this one. Very disappointing.

  2. This method does not cause foods to be excessively salty. The salt creates a unique environment for cooking many kinds of foods (I’ve cooked whole fish, lobsters, many kinds of vegetables) while just seasoning them enough to bring out their best flavors. The salt itself is not meant to be eaten, but reused again as a cooking medium.

  3. It might not be excessively salt for your palate but it certainly would be for mine. You say the salt is “not meant to be eaten” but your shot of the potatoes with chives etc clearly shows a large amount of salt. One little known fact is that we don’t even taste about 90% of the salt we ingest, it’s ingested before it’s dissolved on the palate. So it does massive damage to our health, and we’ve paid astronomical sums if it’s a gourmet salt, yet we fail to even taste it. You can only eat food like this because you’ve habituated your palate to this massive intake of salt. Any western diet featuring vegetables or flesh or eggs, is going to provide sodium well in excess of physiological need, without reaching for salt, much less featuring it as a garnish. I can’t understand this slavish fashion for featuring salts, when you could be featuring healthy and delicious foods like fresh herbs, spices, edible flowers, or citrus peel. Anyway I still love Improvised Life and recommend it widely, so keep up the good work. L

  4. I appreciate your point of view. And for sticking with Improvised Life despite my very different view. (:

    I think you misunderstand some of my thinking. I added the salt to the crushed potato because, even though it had been baked in salt, it was not at all salty, but rather, needed some to illuminate the flavors. The salt used for baking is akin to baking something in clay; it’s an environment, not an opportunity to ingest a lot of salt.

    I researched and wrote about diet for many years trying to find a sane balance people could follow amidst all the conflicting or changing opinions about fats (remember when they were BAD), along with eggs, salt, sugar, carbs etc.) In tallying up ALL the salt I ate in a day and used in my cooking (which was confirmed by a lab), it never went above the accepted limit (even though I didn’t buy the thinking of the research behind salt villification, and even though I wasn’t trying to limit salt in my recipes). I believe that was because I did not use processed food which generally contains a great deal of sodium, and works weirdly in the system. For my money, food goes way beyond physiological need; we need it to nourish ourselves and our spirit in many ways.

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