The name of this recipe comes from Michael Chiarello, the hunky guy who comes up with great tasting recipes, that are often harder than he leads you to believe. I'm onto him now. His recipes are very good, but they usually wind up taking a lot longer than I expected. In this case, it's a wonderful way to serve a mixture of vegetables--potatoes, asparagus, carrots, onion, and mushrooms--that might be difficult to roast together, due to their differing cooking requirements. He explains that the secret technique that restaurants use to serve perfectly roasted vegetables is to parboil and pre-roast them in a skillet, then finish them off by roasting in the oven. Makes sense. I wound up modifying the recipe because I could see that his technique of browning everything in a skillet, and then sticking the skillet into the oven wouldn't work. I would wind up with veggies spilling out of my inadequately sized skillet. So, I did it my way and the dish was fabulous. I will now serve this any time I have company, or just for myself. It was one of the best versions of roasted vegetables I've ever eaten. The seasonings of fennel and fresh thyme were amazingly good and each vegetable was cooked just right, with that sweet caramelized flavor that roasting imparts. Frankly, I didn't care about eating meat, once I tasted this dish. I heated up a flour tortilla and wrapped it around the veggies.
The asparagus, mushrooms, garlic, fennel, and thyme are mixed in later for a final roasting. When done the veggies are sweet and aromatic with each vegetable standing out on it's own. It was more work than the usual way I roast vegetables. But, in this case, it was worth it.
"Quintessential" Roasted Vegetables
(Adapted from At Home With Michael Chiarello)
4 quarts water
1 pound of small Yukon Gold potatoes
6-8 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 pound jumbo asparagus, with the tough ends cut off
1 pound of cipollini onions, cut in half through stem and peeled (or substitute other small onions)
About 1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 pound shitake or crimini mushrooms (or whatever looks best) stems removed and caps cut in quarters (or eights if the mushrooms are really big).
1/4 cup sliced garlic
freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring water to boil in a large pot and add 2 Tablespoons salt. Add the potatoes, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 6 minutes. Then add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes more. Then add the asparagus and cook 2 more minutes. Drain all the veggies and quickly put on a large baking sheet and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.
While the water is boiling, heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the mushrooms and cook them on one side until they start to turn golden (about 4 minutes) then turn them and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic starts to get a little golden, and any mushroom juices evaporate. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
Take the vegetables from the fridge. If your potatoes are small, quarter them. Mine were a little big, so I cut them in half and quartered each half. Cut the carrots and asparagus on the diagonal about 1-1/2 inches long. Add another 1/4 cup oil and when it's hot add the potatoes. Cook on one side until it begins to brown, then turn the potatoes to the other side and cook until that side is a little brown. Scrape potatoes from the pan and add the carrots and onions and cook them until they are starting to turn golden (about 5 minutes).
Take a deep baking sheet or pan and put the potatoes, carrots and onions into it, spreading them. Season with salt and lots of fresh pepper. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, then add the asparagus and mushrooms, fennel and thyme. Toss well and put back in the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Serve while warm Reheats well.