It's one of the best smells you can create as a home cook: the fragrance of oven-roasted root vegetables, winter squash or your favorite roast wafting from the kitchen. And thankfully, roasting is an easy way to prepare any number of cozy winter meals.
The indirect heat of an oven brings out the inherent sweetness of vegetables, boosts the flavor of nuts and gives meats and poultry satisfying, crisp outsides and moist, tender insides.
Best candidates for roasting:
- Thick cuts of meat and whole poultry
- Meaty fish, such as halibut or cod
- Root vegetables (think celery root, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas)
- Winter squash
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Nuts and seeds
- Cauliflower (enjoy it whole or eat it mashed into a tasty spread)
- Brussels sprouts
- Mushrooms (an easy way to boost flavor in salads and soups)
- Fennel (add a splash of sherry vinegar just before it's done)
- In the spring and summer, roast asparagus, tomatoes, beets and eggplant for flavorful salads, sauces and spreads
What to have on hand:
- A roasting pan, jelly roll pan or baking dish.
- Handy seasonings to prepare or finish a dish: fresh culinary herbs such as rosemary, your favorite spices, fresh ginger, citrus, vinegars, onions, shallots and garlic, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- A roasting rack helps prevent large roasts and whole poultry from burning on the bottom. No rack? Place your roast on a bed of potatoes, onions and other vegetables for a similar effect.
Let roasted meats and poultry rest for at least 10 minutes before carving to let juices settle.
Cut vegetables to equal sizes and vary the cooking time according to density. Softer vegetables like tomatoes and zucchini require less time than starchier vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
When are those vegetables done? When they are fork-tender and caramelized around the edges.