Every Christmas I sit down to a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. My mom, insistent that she do most of the cooking herself (we do breakfast, remember?), spends a couple of days prepping, and when it all comes together, it’s magical. That woman can cook! This year is no exception. I’m already looking forward to the dinner we’re going to have on Wednesday night. When I didn’t eat meat, there was an expectation that I could just eat the sides. (Vegetarians, you know what I’m talking about!) And while that was most often perfectly fine (I love my vegetables, after all.), it sometimes made me feel like I was an afterthought. So when I cook for people, I always try to have options that everybody feels satisfied with. This dish from one of my all-time favourite chefs fits that bill this time of year. It’s hearty, warming, and stands completely on it’s own, though a side of greens wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Mom’s turkey dinner aside, THIS is how I love to eat. And this is how I eat most days. With Denis Cotter’s approach to food, every meal is a memorable and enchanting experience. I wrote a little about Denis’s book in my Cookbook Gift Guide, but I could have talked about his inspiring work for days. What I love the most about it is how Denis deconstructs and reconstructs food in ways that we don’t typically see, giving every every dish a level of complexity in its flavour. To say that his food is exquisite, stunning, and heat-stoppingly memorable is an understatement.
So I worked up the courage to write him and to asked if I could reprint this recipe from his book. Much to my surprise, he returned my request with a warm and generous response. Imagine my joy when I saw an e-mail from the Denis Cotter appear in my inbox?!
So this post is really a gift from the man himself. Denis recommends toasted millet in his original version—which is fantastic, but I can’t seem to get enough of sorghum lately. If you haven’t had it, it’s a gluten-free grain that’s nutty, slightly sweet, and with a chewy texture similar to wheat berries. So if you miss wheat berries, this is really good stand-in. But feel free to use either grain. Vegetarian-folk, this simple, humble, but uniquely constructed and tasty dish could be your Christmas main. If you are of the meat-eating ilk, then it makes a lovely accompaniment to a turkey dinner. Holidays aside, if you’re like me and want to feel like what you eat is special every day, make this now and enjoy it on the weekend. Whatever bringing you pleasure this season, I hope your days are restful and joy-filled. I’ll be back soon with more deliciousness to share with you!
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup sorghum
- 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil for tossing the vegetables in (I used grape seed oil because of smoke point)
- 1¾ cups rutabaga, chopped into bite-sized chunks (I used turnip)
- 1¾ cups carrots, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 1.5 cups parsnips, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 8 cloves garlic, halved
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (I used ½ tsp of dried thyme. It's fine, but fresh is always better!)
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 150 ml apple cider (between ½ and ¾ of a cup)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 3 tbsp butter
- Salt, to taste
- Spiced Pecan Salsa
- ½ cup pecan, roughly chopped
- 2 fresh red chilies, seeded and thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime (I used lemon)
- First off, pour the water into a large pot with the sorghum. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the sorghum simmer, covered, until the it is soft and chewy. It should take about one hour. If the grains are still hard and the water is almost fully absorbed, add another ½ cup to 1 cup of water and continue cooking until soft and chewy.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Toss the red onion in a little grape seed oil in an oven dish and roast for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Put the rutagbega in the boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and simmer for 2 minutes. Lastly, add the parsnip, and simmer for 2 minutes more.
- Drain in a colander and stir the vegetables together with the roasted onion. Add 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil, the garlic, thyme, and caraway seeds, and season with salt.
- Put the dish back in the oven and roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, or until they begin to caramelize. Add the cider vinegar and cider, cover the vegetables loosely with baking parchment and continue to roast for 10-15 minutes more, until they are tender and the sauce had reduced a little. Remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs, if using, and stir in the maple syrup and butter.
- Spiced Pecan Salsa
- While the vegetables are roasting, make the salsa by combining all of the ingredients.
- Stir the sorghum into the roots and serve immediately with spooned salsa over top.