I come alive in the fall. I breathe a little better, I sleep better, but mostly, I think better. I don’t know if it’s the summer allergies finally seeing their way out, or if the clutter in my head is also getting swept out with the autumn gusts. Either way, fall and I are friends. And as much as I love Thanksgiving, there are so many more days in fall that we still need to eat. Making these fall meals is one of my favorite ways to be still, be present and let the flavors do all the talking.
Root Vegetable Gratin
This is one of my favorite dishes to make because it feels just slightly festive, yet approachable to make with just regular old roasted chicken, too. The prep isn’t terribly hard if you have a mandolin (which I highly recommend).
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 -1 package buttery crackers, crushed
- 1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3-4 large parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3-5 beets, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2-3 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp. minced or grated garlic
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set aside all the thinly sliced root vegetables separately.
In a small saucepan, heat together the heavy cream, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer very gently, then remove from heat.
In a baking dish, pour a few tablespoons of the cream mixture on the bottom. Then make rows of each of the vegetables, alternating with the different types.
Pour half the cream mixture over all the root vegetables, then top with half of the cheeses. Top with more cream and cheese.
Finally, top with the crushed crackers and the melted butter and bake at 400 degrees for about 45-60 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender and cream is bubbling.
Let cool slightly before burning your mouth. I slur this message from experience.
Beef & Mushroom Pie
This is the dish you want to make right before you sit down under a warm and cozy blanket to watch your favorite movie. I love this one because it’s hearty, flavorful and filling — all the things you need when the days are starting to get darker earlier and earlier.
- 2-3 lbs. chuck beef or English roast, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1/3 cup flour, plus more for browning meat
- 2-4 tbsp. oil
- 1 package bacon, cut up
- 3-4 cups mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
- 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme, destemmed
- 2 small bay leaves
- 2-3 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large stalk celery, cleaned and diced
- 1 large carrot, cleaned and diced
- 3-4 cups beef broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 sheets puff pastry
- 1 egg, plus water for egg wash
In a large plate, add a little flour and some salt and pepper, then coat all the cut pieces of beef.
In a dutch oven, heat up the oil and brown the flour-coated beef in small batches so the pan is not over crowded. Remove and set aside, then brown remaining pieces. Add more oil if necessary. Set all beef aside.
In the same dutch oven, add in the chopped pieces of bacon and cook until browned and crispy. Remove and set aside. Into the bacon fat, add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Cook until softened and fond begins to develop. (Fond is the sticky brown residue that forms on the bottom of a pan.)
Add in the 1/3 cup flour and mix until no lumps remain.
Slowly add in the broth and mix to incorporate. Add in the thyme and bay leaves.
Return the beef back to the dutch oven and cook on low/medium heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Let it simmer so it doesn’t burn.
Add in more stock if necessary. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.
When the beef is tender, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pour the beef stew into a baking dish, add in the bacon and top with the puff pastry, being sure to pinch ends to the baking dish.
Brush with the egg wash and bake for 30ish minutes, or until puff pastry is golden brown.
Allow to cool slightly and serve with your favorite fall movie. (A great throwback is “You’ve Got Mail” for fall in NYC vibes.)
Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler
And now for dessert.
- 1 cup and 3 tbsp. flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2/4 cups sugar
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 tsp. cardamom
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 stick melted butter
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/2 cups very hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a bowl, stir together the dry ingredients plus the sugar.
In another bowl, mix together the pumpkin, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.
Combine with the dry ingredients until it creates a thick batter.
Pour into a small casserole dish.
To make the topping, in a small bowl combine all the ingredients except the water. Spread the topping mixture over the batter. Place the casserole dish on top of a baking dish.
Then pour the hot water over the entire batter and topping, but do not mix.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked through.
Enjoy warm with ice cream.
From Z to A with Zara Abbasi
Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit.