This dish provides a wonderful cornucopia of the colors and flavors of the autumn harvest. I like to arrange it on a large platter – the orange yams, bright green Brussels sprouts, and vivid beets make a beautiful composition. Since root vegetables vary in moisture content, you may have to adjust cooking times accordingly for par-boiling the beets as well as the final roasting. Feel free to experiment, adding and subtracting vegetables. I've had great luck with small boiling onions, wedged red onion, butternut squash and red bliss potatoes. Even whole garlic cloves will turn out meltingly soft and sweet, since high-temperature roasting brings out the natural vegetable sugars.
Food Editor's Note:
This dish is indeed beautiful. It's surprising how many people actually like beets when they are cooked properly! If you make this side dish, you don't really need much else, maybe just a salad. Try your own selection of root vegetables, but remember that the roasting time may vary somewhat. I added a little extra apple cider to my vegetables towards the end, just to keep them moist and lightly coated with the glaze. Keep the vegetables in a warm oven until the turkey or other entrée is ready. Then just spoon them onto a beautiful large serving platter for a very elegant and unusual side dish
3 cups apple cider or apple juice
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
12 baby beets or 4 regular beets
2 lbs. yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium acorn squash (see directions)
12 Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
8 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
Boil apple cider and orange juice in heavy saucepan until reduced to 1-1 1/2 cups. Whisk in butter or margarine. Preheat oven to 450°.
Place a medium saucepan of salted water to boil. Peel beets. If using large ones, wedge into quarters or eighths. When water boils, add beets and cook until just barely fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain beets into a colander, run cold water over to stop cooking. Place beets in a 9"x 9" glass pan or glass pie plate (don't use metal as beets will react with it and turn bitter).
Quarter acorn squash, seed, and cut each quarter crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Mix remaining prepared vegetables in a large, flat roasting pan. Pour reduced apple cider mixture over pan of beets and pan of mixed vegetables. Sprinkle each pan with salt and pepper, toss to coat. Roast about 40 minutes, gently turning vegetables occasionally, until veggies are nicely browned in spots and just test done with a fork. Take special care with beets, as the sugar in the beets can burn if not stirred often. Should beets start to burn on the edges before they are done, cover pan with aluminum foil and continue cooking until beets test done. If the either pan of vegetables seems dry, add a small amount of apple cider or orange juice.
Plate mixed vegetables. Add beets. Serve.
Note that any root vegetables, including cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, baby artichokes, etc. can be used in the mixture. Just choose a nice selection of contrasting colors and textures to make the final product interesting.
Lisa Chodosh grew up in Wayland and is now a Manhattan-based restaurant consultant who regularly cooks for crowds. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.