Gratins make anything better. A nice cheesy, crunchy crust on top of any vegetable is an improvement. I also love that you can make gratins ahead of time and finish the cooking in the oven, so you can leave the kitchen and entertain guests. And of course this makes them perfect for the holidays, when half my meal is made ahead of time so it’s no stress and I can focus on a few key things that require attention.
1 pound parsnips, sliced into thin discs
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 strip bacon, cut into small batons (optional)
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons thyme
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated gruyere
1/2 cup grated cheddar
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 slice bread, crumbled or ground into big breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
If using bacon, render it in a frying pan until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the shallots to the pan and soften, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and combine with the parsnips, half the hazelnuts, most of the cheddar and gruyere, milk, bacon, and the thyme. Stir together and pour into a baking dish.
Combine the parmesan, remaining gruyere and cheddar, and breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the parsnips along with the remaining hazelnuts. Dot the top with little pieces of the butter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the top gets brown and crispy. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.