As with yesterday’s post, this recipe takes all day. In fact, we made both on the same day, and no, you don’t need to work on it all day; You do some prep work, pop the beets into the oven for the day — you can do other things while they’re cooking — then, at the end, you take them out of the oven, peel, then finish and presto: a beet side dish ready for serving.
Just like the One-Pot Mac ‘n’ Cheese, this recipe comes from Cooking Slow, by Andrew Schloss; it’s full of recipes like this that would be perfect for holidays, or times when you want to enjoy time with your family, yet still have a nice meal ready at dinner time. We could see this type of cooking replacing take-out. After all, it’s not really that much more difficult.
There really isn’t too much here, but try to make sure that your olive oil is truly extra-virgin. A quick test is to taste it. If it doesn’t have much flavor, it’s not extra-virgin. We think you can substitute any nuts for the hazelnuts: walnuts, pecans, cashews. Just be sure to toast them to enhance their nuttiness. Finally, since you’re using the zest from the orange, try to find an organic orange; or, at a minimum, wash it very well.
Procedure in detail:
There are really three parts to this recipe: prepping and baking the beets, making the gremolata, and combining the two. We’ll cover the prepping and combining first, then cover making the gremolata, which you can make anytime while the beets are baking.
Preheat oven to 225°F. Yes, that low. We actually baked the beets at a slightly lower temperature because we were making the one-pot mac ‘n’ cheese at the same time.
Foil beets. Place the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap it all up tightly. Then, just to be sure that steam or liquids won’t escape, warp it again in another layer of foil.
Bake. Place in the oven and bake, well, basically, all day, at least 6 to 7 hours. See, you’ll have plenty of time to get the gremolata together before the beets are done.
Peel and cut. After the 6 to 7 hours, remove the beets from the oven and let cool until you can handle them. Use a paper towel, or the edge of a table knife, to peel off the skins. This is the most time-consuming part, but you can do it. Once you’ve peeled off the skin, cut each beet into eight pieces.
Reheat. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the beet pieces and stir occasionally until the beets are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Add gremolata. Once the beets are hot, stir in the gremolata until all the beets are coated, and serve immediately.
Just as we promised, now we’ll cover making the gremlata.
Toast nuts. Since the oven is on very low, we’ll just toast up the nuts in a heavy skillet. Place a heavy skillet on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the nuts, and remove from heat. The residual heat of the skillet with toast the nuts. If you’re using hazelnuts, rub off the skins with your fingers.
Chop nuts. Once the nuts are toasted, give them all a quick chop, cutting them into small pieces. Try to get them about 1/8-inch, or so. It’s okay if some are bigger.
Zest and juice orange. We use a microplane grater for zesting, but a sharp chef’s knife will work as well. Just be sure yo don’t get any of the white pith, as it’s bitter. Once you’ve zested the orange, squeeze out all the juice and transfer to a small bowl along with the zest.
Add garlic. Since we had the microplane out, we just grated a bit of garlic right into the orange juice and zest. You could also mince the garlic finely with a chef’s knife.
Add everything else. Add olive oil, nuts, chervil, and some salt and pepper, and stir everything together. That’s it. The gremolata is done.
We weren’t extremely happy with these beets. Sure, the slow baking is easy, but we found that slow-baked beets are a little harder to peel than boiled beets. Plus, to us, baked beets have a slightly bitter taste, which just doesn’t occur with boiled beets. Then, finally, while we try new recipes for beets, we have yet to find one better than our Beets and Walnuts in an Orange-Balsamic Sauce. So, we’ll have to give these beets just three stars.