A hot, bubbling gratin straight out of the oven is the definition of “so wrong, yet so right.” Who was the first genius that decided to cook vegetables by drowning them in heavy cream and cheese? Does it matter? That person is in heaven now, where they rightfully deserve to be.
A gratin is usually made with potatoes and gruyere. It’s like a loving hug for your insides, something to eat straight from the casserole while sitting fireside under a warm blanket.
This non-traditional recipe offers tantalizing new flavors and unexpected tastes that can help you avoid potato-gratin fatigue. Potatoes are swapped for parsnips, which convey the natural sweetness of the root vegetable family, but far subtler than most. Parsnips balance faint sugar notes with comparable bitterness. Their savoriness is almost reminiscent of a musky, autumn-inspired perfume.
Pears are a perfect companion for such an ingredient. Just as parsnip often acts as the carrot’s less-popular cousin, pears regularly find themselves playing second fiddle to apples. Bringing the two together in sweet harmony in this dish is a helping of heavy cream and gobfuls of luscious Brie.
- 8 ounces Brie
- 5 medium parsnips
- 4 large Bosc pears
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 sprigs thyme, stripped, divided
- 2½ cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup cornstarch or potato starch
Place Brie in freezer at least 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 9 x13 baking pan or medium casserole dish.
Peel parsnips and pears. Cut pears in half from top to bottom. Remove cores with paring knife or melon baller.
Using mandoline or chef’s knife, cut parsnips and pears into ¼-inch slices. Place pear slices in bowl, and toss with potato starch. Remove Brie from freezer and shred. Set one-third of the cheese aside to top gratin.
Place baking pan onto sheet pan.
Arrange three layers of parsnips in baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Top with single layer of pears, shaking off any additional potato starch from slices first. Sprinkle cheese over pear layer with a bit of thyme. Slowly drizzle heavy cream to cover. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used.
Bake gratin for 30 minutes, or until it begins to bubble. Sprinkle remaining Brie over gratin. Turn on oven broiler. Place under broiler for 5–10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let gratin rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 12 as a side.
Domaine Bertrand 2015 Pisse-Vieille (Brouilly); $25, 90 points. This juicy red wine with plenty of acidity gently lifts this cozy, gooey dish. Bright fruit flavors are a natural companion for brie while the smoky accents of the wine play well with the earthy flavors of the parsnips.