Textures and colours have always been important to me when it comes to food. I’ve had two memorable meals that were so off the mark that they made hospital food look good. Both were served on plain white china. Just setting the mood.
The first was served in a small home eatery on one of the Gulf Islands. Dinner was sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Sounds great, yes? No added herbs, sauce, gremolata, or anything resembling colour or flavour, bland, bland, and bland. I could not believe that someone was proud to serve this to paying guests. Of course, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they didn’t care.
The second was at a major restaurant chain. We stopped in for a quick supper during a shopping trip. I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, looking forward to a velvety sauce full of flavour. What I got: soft noodles smothered in a cream sauce. I couldn’t detect any cheese flavour at all. As well, there was nothing else on the plate, no sprinkling of herbs, not even a sprig of parsley. Disappointment prevailed.
When I plan a menu, I love to incorporate lots of colours and textures, as well as great taste. I’m happiest when I hear people exclaiming how beautiful it all looks, and then look forward to the silence as they all tuck in.
When planning a buffet, I like to have a purée of some sort as part of the mix, nothing soft and mushy, but something with deep, interesting flavours that is firm, as well as having a velvety texture. For an upcoming job, I want to have carrot purée tucked in amongst the other vegetable dishes, to compliment them in colour, but also that has enough flavour of its own, that people will go back to it for seconds.
So here’s what I’ve come up with.
500 gr carrots (4 good-sized ones – just over a pound)
1 apple (I used a Bramley’s Seedling)
½ a yellow onion
1 T olive oil
½ t salt
¼ t pepper
½ t fresh thyme leaves
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 425°
Set a medium sized pot of salted water on to boil.
When the water’s boiling, add in the carrots, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the onion and apple.
Line a shallow baking pan with parchment.
Cut the onion in half, peel, and cut into ¼” slices.
Peel, core, and cut the apple into ¼” slices.
Put the onion and apple into the parchment lined baking pan.
Drain the carrots once they’re cooked.
Toss with the oiled and seasoned apple & onion.
Place in the heated oven.
Cook them for a total of 30 minutes, taking them out of the oven after 15 minutes of cooking to turn the vegetables and fruit.
Return to the oven for the final 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325° – 350°. Just not super hot. This is just for reheating.
Put the cooked vegetables and fruit into the bowl of a processor. Scrape any little bits from the parchment in, too.
Reserve the parchment.
Return to the oven to reheat. The purée will be hot after 15 minutes, but will still be fine after 30 minutes, really flexible to go with the rest of your menu. A bit of crust is a good thing.
When you’re ready to serve, drizzle the purée with a bit more olive oil, the fresh thyme leaves and another crack or two of pepper.
Do ahead ~ the carrots can be prepared and parboiled a day ahead. Bring to room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.