celeriac-turnip gratin with herbed maple cream.

celeriac-turnip gratin with herbed maple cream.

Yes, it’s fantastic, because roots swimming in maple cream softly spiced with nutmeg and cayenne, then tossed with fresh rosemary and thyme. What part of that could fail? No parts. It’s perfection and we’re going to get to that. Stick with me, because I manage to work the phrase “a family of anthropomorphic foxes” into my dish description.

You know what else is fantastic? My sweet friend Katherine (you know, from Eggton) having her baby this past weekend. No small feat, and I’m sure she was brilliant. I have known Katherine for years now, people – we actually have each other’s cell phone numbers, which in introvert world is saying something – and she’s one of the nicest and funniest people I know: like a wee bit of Tina Fey infused into my life. I also know because of conversations we’ve had that she’s pretty intense, and a little neurotic – exactly the qualities I look for in a friend, because I am that way and it means we understand each other. Because of this, I know she’ll approach (“attack” or “throw herself into” may be more accurate) mothering with the same sort of intellectual, analytical gusto with which she approaches other things. I can’t wait to see it because she’s going to be amazing.

celeriac-turnip gratin with herbed maple cream.

In honor of our friendship and, I suspect, our similar approach to parenting, I’m going to run down some key lessons I emerged with from parenting a very newborn Wee One. I’ll preface this by saying I knew n.o.t.h.i.n.g about being a mom before I had her: I wasn’t big into babysitting, I didn’t naturally gravitate towards babies at all, and so on. I would imagine no one had really high hopes. But I know stuff now, so, Katherine (and anyone else with a very small baby who would actually listen to advice from me), here goes:

  • Talk a lot – no joke, the Wee One uses bigger words than most of you, and she uses an ungodly amount of them throughout the course of a day. I am convinced this is because all I did was talk to her. About anything: not baby stuff, just talk about movies, or music, or the weather, and say “i love you” a lot. Those tiny things absorb things like a wee sea sponge, and her vocabulary is due, in part, to me never shutting up.
  • When in doubt, hug it out – the wee one took great naps; don’t get jealous yet. The wee one also loooooved to stay up until midnight to party. She wasn’t crabby, she really wanted to party. Me? I’m a crack-of-dawn morning person. This was hard. So sometimes i’d sit there and just hug her like a teddy bear and it made me feel better; she probably liked it too. And speaking of…
  • Write down your schedule and then laugh – because you’re never going to get that to work, at least not all the way. Babies make their own schedule and it’s just a matter of unclenching your fists and making it work for both of you. I had a night owl who took great, long, solid naps. I adjusted my schedule to do things during those naps, even though I would have rather had the evening. Oh, and also? every time you get used to a schedule, they’ll mix it up. Go with it. Breathe.
  • Try not to get mad at Scott – I mean, good luck with that because I was inexplicably, obtusely aggravated at Mr. Table for the first 4 to 5 months of the Wee One’s life. He didn’t do anything probably to deserve it, but I’m pretty sure he’s blocked that part of our life out. So if you do get mad at scott for inexplicably long periods, it’s okay; they forget, or at least forgive.

The Wee One and I? We’re tight. I mean like, best friends forever. I’m going to show her this post when she’s like 15 and full of angst and attitude so she remembers how hard I worked for her. I think that’s the thing to remember: you just gave birth to your best friend, whether they know it or not yet. They’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time literally glued to some part of your body, and that’s going to get annoying, until you realize that there’s not many people on this earth whose world would come crashing down if you weren’t there.

People say it goes fast, and it does, although it’s been my experience that it goes fast some days, and other days it feels like it’s been forever, but not in a bad way. I’ve spent 1,582 days putting my baby to bed; you have spent a handful. Most of my days have routine to them, and an early bedtime for my tiny best friend. I have time to myself I don’t have to carve out by watching a movie at 2 am between feedings. You have a while to get to that, and you will get there. And then you’ll laugh, because I can promise that even the bad stuff is funny and happy when you get far enough away from it.

And if you need to, you can text me at weird hours of the day and night. I’m sometimes up, but not because I have to be. And then again, sometimes because i DO have to be. Because babies are like that. So consider your world rocked by someone who’s not even 10 pounds yet.

Can you handle all that brilliant advice, people? Feel free to file that under “incoherent musings about children” if you wish; there’s a reason I’m not a mommy blogger.

celeriac-turnip gratin with herbed maple cream.

celeriac-turnip gratin with herbed maple cream.

So about this gratin, those of you who came for the food and not for the rambles: this is like a miracle gratin, full of flavor. Everything balances out here: the snappy bite of the turnip and fresh celery root, the sweetness of maple and cream, the soft woodsy notes of rosemary and thyme. It’s like a gratin made in some hidden-away cabin in the woods, and not the creepy sort: I mean the kind with softly glowing windows and a family of anthropomorphic foxes or something. It’s simply lovely.

celeriac-turnip gratin with herbed maple cream.

And practical: there’s not much work to it, it bakes for ages, and it makes fabulous leftovers, say for two people with a newborn who don’t feel like cooking. It’s a casserole dish full of winter wonder, people, and I’m happy I happened upon it. It’s from a book which never, ever lets me down; quite the contrary, it delights my socks off. It’s American Flavor from Andrew Carmellini, and I know most of you don’t have it. Take my advice and get it: if I were to make a Top 5 Essential Cookbooks list (and I just might) this would make the cut with ease. I would especially recommend this one to Brianne and Elizabeth, as it reminds me of their cooking somehow.

Without further ado (or parenting advice).

Adapted from a recipe for Rutabega and Turnip Gratin, found in the book American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini.

Celeriac-Turnip Gratin with Herbed Maple Cream

Serves 6 to 8 

  • 2 small-to-medium turnips
  • 1 smallish celery root (so about 3 lbs total, before trimming and peeling)*
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese

*your ratios don’t have to look like this, but if you’re curious as to how mine measured up, two smallish turnips equaled about 1 lb 5 oz and my celery root weighed in at a petite 1 lb 9 oz. 

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Grease bottom and sides a 2 quart casserole dish (I used my Emile Henry 1.76 liter casserole, which is oblong and shallow) with butter.

Trim your turnips and celery root by cutting the ends off and then peeling the skin off with a sharp, thin-bladed knife – you can work top to bottom or work ‘round the mountain…whichever is easiest for you. Once peeled, slice them into rounds about 1/8 inch thick: easiest using a mandoline, if you have one (and you should: a sound kitchen investment if ever there was one.

Add the cream, maple syrup, cayenne, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, bring to a soft boil.

In the meantime, add root slices to a very large bowl (one which gives you plenty of moveable space) and add salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Toss with your hands until everything is coated – i’ll tell you right now this is easier said than done, so take your time and you’ll eventually get a nice, even distribution.

Once cream comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir. Layer 1/3 of the root slices in the bottom of the prepared dish (saving the prettiest ones for the top!), overlapping a little as you go. Pour in 1 cup of cream, the top with 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese. Layer another 1/3 of the root slices over top, pour another 1 cup of cream, and sprinkle with another 1/3 of the cheese. Finish it out with the final layer of root slices, the last cup of cream, and the last of the cheese. If you have any stray herbs in the bowl, throw those over top as well.

Gently press the whole thing down with your palms so the vegetables sink into the cream, then cover with foil and place in the oven – rack in the middle – for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes more until nice and dark brown on top and only a little liquid remains in the dish.

Remove and transfer to a rack to cool down a bit. Look at it this way: eating a gratin too soon out of the oven is like eating a tart too soon: you want to, like really want to, but it’s not a good move because everything is still super hot and runny and it turns into a big mess. Rather, let your gratin rest for about 15 minutes or so to allow the vegetables to soak in more of the cream as they cool. It’s worth it, I promise, and you’re getting a better gratin that way.

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  • Reply natalie @ wee eats February 18, 2015 at 11:03 am

    This post has my tummy rumbling and after seeing the video for it on instagram there’s no way i’m NOT making this and force feeding it to Mr. Eats bc, um, yes please. Also remind me to come back and read this if I ever squeeze out a tiny human, OK? ok. Also I’m sure she’s way too busy to read this but if she does CONGRATULATIONS, EGGTON!!! <3

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

      it’s FABULOUS, and with all the maple cream in there even Mr. Table is a fan, and he’s not a big “adventurous root” person. and i promise you this: if you ever squeeze out a tiny human, you’re getting a SERIES OF WELL-MEANING AND MISGUIDED POSTS specifically tailored to your baby needs, authored by yours truly. don’t you worry.
      I don’t know if she’s too busy to read this: from what i can tell, she’s got her act together already, which makes her more qualified to give ME advice than I am to her.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 18, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Love your baby tips. I’ve got the talking a lot thing covered- and our nanny doesn’t shut up either, so Berkeley is SET! I’ve juuust figured out that right when you think you know everything, they change. It’s so freaking frustrating for a planner like me! I’m super jealous of the long naps. Still waiting for that to happen (crossing my fingers for it starting on his 6 month bday next week). Oh my gosh, thank you for saying that last point- i’ve been SO irritable for the past 6 months. I blame it on the sleep deprivation. Hopefully Nate will forgive me. I think that perhaps as an apology I should bake him up this gratin. I know he’d love it 🙂 Oh and Congrats to Katherine!!!
    P.S. i’m totally jealous you two have exchanged numbers

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Amy, you can totally have my cell number, but i expect a full report on how you and that sweet baby are doing via Messenger.

      Just kidding, but i would love an update. 🙂 And you go right ahead and be irritable (don’t tell nate i said that sorryyyyy!) but yeah…i think that’s normal, and to be expected: there’s lots to think about right now, you’re getting less sleep, etc. it all levels out, and everyone just needs to hang on and hang in and it’ll be okay. when in doubt, bake this gratin b/c he’ll love it and the house will smell good for DAYS.

  • Reply Cecilia February 18, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I love all the ingredients in this recipe – I have to try it. It sounds so delicious, and the photo just made me hungry! Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:57 am

      Thanks, Cecilia! I hope you love this recipe as much as we did!

  • Reply mellissa @ ibreatheimhungry February 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I think you may have missed your calling as a mommy blogger – this was a beautiful post and Katherine is fortunate to have you as a friend and confidante! This gratin looks amazing and I love when a winter dish combines a little sweet and a little savory – nutmeg and cream can never go wrong when paired with root vegetables, add the maple syrup and it’s like a trifecta of awesomesauce. Finally, I was patting myself on the back for my use of monochromaticity in today’s post and then you had to go and one up me with “anthropomorphic foxes.” Consider it officially ON now my friend – to the thesaurus I go! Oh if only we could play scrabble together someday it would be AWESOME. Though the wee one might beat the both of us by the sound of it! 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:56 am

      Me, a mommy blogger; can you even IMAGINE the destruction? 🙂 I’m fortunate to have her as a friend, and i can say in the past few years i’ve known her, we’ve had some great conversations and i feel like we are alike in lots of ways, and different in lots of ways also; things i think make for great friendship.

      monochromaticity? YOU WIN, Mellisa. that’s a mega-word. Let’s totally do scrabble sometime, and until then? WORD WARS.

  • Reply Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) February 18, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Great post! Maybe Katherine’s own wee one will also look back on this when he is 15 years old and full of angst, and he’ll appreciate her hard work and your wise words!

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:52 am

      thanks Allison! I’m bookmarking this one for my OWN wee one’s angsty years. 🙂

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends February 18, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Ditto what Mellissa said, you would make a fantastic mommy blogger! Most parenting advice is pretty, how should I put this, high and mighty, but yours is so down to earth and heartwarming and perfect and it almost sorta kinda makes me want a baby just so I can experience it all. Almost. (I keep trying not to look at the photo Katherine posted, because HOLY COW that baby is cute!) I think I’ll just have to distract myself with this gratin, and the thought of anthropomorphic foxes baking it in a cottage in the woods. (Pretty much the most fantastic thing I’ve read in a recipe description ever. Just sayin’.)

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:54 am

      You know, Willow…babies are terrifying. but pretty awesome. But also terrifying. And messy. And they just get messier when they start to move around! And then they start to have opinions of their own and it’s just all downhill from there.

      But they’re pretty great, too. As are anthropomorphic foxes, and anytime i can come up with something like “anthropomorphic foxes.” File under “once in a blue moon creativity.” 🙂

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs February 18, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I love a nicely browned gratin. Yours is perfect. I’ve made a lot of celeriac gratins, but never added turnips to the mix. Sounds good — I will. And never thought to add maple syrup to a gratin! Really interesting idea — another thing I’ll be trying. 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:49 am

      Thank you so much, John! The turnips in this one serve to really balance out the celeriac: you still get the flavor of it, but it’s more a rounded sort of root flavor with a little something special at the end. And the maple works so well, especially since some roots can have a little bit of bitterness to them; it smooths that out a little.

  • Reply movita beaucoup February 19, 2015 at 7:09 am

    This is good life advice, really. Even without the baby. I should probably hire you to be my life coach.

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

      I’m in for life coaching if you are. We’ll coach each other, although i daresay Effie is the one who should be coaching both of us: she really seems to have it together.

  • Reply elizabeth February 19, 2015 at 7:47 am

    You’re going to laugh because I have a post up today that sings the praises of a particular pasta that’s all light and bright for this time of year…but now I really want to have this glorious starchy gut bomb. (Seriously–I’m pretty sure I would fall into a happy doze after eating this.) Between the maple and the rosemary and the baking for freaking-ever I’m sure your kitchen smelled heavenly while this was going!

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:46 am

      I should probably head right over to your post to avail myself of your light and bright pasta: because that whole taking-a-nap-after-lots-of-gratin thing? That happened. All of it. And i’m inching closer and closer to needing a week of very light dishes to set myself back on track. 🙂
      Now if i could just find a way to make this gratin into a scented candle…

  • Reply Ashley February 19, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    You delight my socks off!!! I loved the parenting advice, despite not having more than a furry kitten wee one (who is awfully adorable and sometimes very squawky). Many of your tips still apply to him. 😉 And I would love to be in a cozy magical cabin with a family of friendly anthropomorphic foxes devouring this lovely wintry get-in-my-mouth goodness.

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

      hey: parenting advice extends to lovable pets as well, especially once who tend to be squawky. All this talk of anthropomorphic foxes has me aching for this gratin again. and also, a cabin in the woods.

  • Reply Deb|EastofEdenCooking February 19, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Parenting is one of life’s great adventures! And you’ve got a good grip on the important parts. The daily nooks and crannies that compose each day. Meals are part of the mom thing, the human thing, and a scoop of gratin with maple cream would make a very good day!

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Thank you for saying so, Deb: i’d love to think i have a grip on the important stuff, but some days…you know the feeling. 🙂

  • Reply Lily Lau February 25, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    What is this delicious gratin? I wasn’t this hungry until I reached your post, it’s magic! 😛

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Thank you, Lily!

  • Reply Abbe @ This is How I Cook February 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    OMG. I don’t know what’s better; being a mother or being the recipient of this casserole. I suppose it depends what day it is! I had two babies at one time and knew nothing about babies. I still am sure that I don’t know much, but the one thing I know for sure is that you just have to olve them. If they cry and it is driving you crazy, lay them carefully in a safe spot and step out of the room. Go turn some music on really loud. Chances are that will distract them enough to stop crying and then you will think they are dead. They won’t be, but then you will be sorry you laid them down. Truthfully, I think this is built into their DNA!

    • Reply shannon February 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Ha! You know, some days i’m not sure what’s better either. 🙂 hard choices. And i can’t imagine having two little ones at the same time: it’s a ton of work with just one, but double has to be wow…i can’t even wrap my head around it, and I admire anyone who can get through it (because i’m not sure i could!).
      I remember doing that with the Wee when she was little: she wasn’t a huge crier, but when you’re home with them all the time and that’s all you hear, it does really get hard sometimes: occasionally i would put her in her crib and walk out of the room, but then guilt, and sadness that they’re totally cool without you (how dare she!?) 🙂 and so forth. Definitely a journey.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog February 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Great advice. I went ahead and bookmarked this for my future self, because you never know when the mood will strike. I love turnips, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that I will also like celeriac. Because, I trust you. Anything swimming in maple cream has to be wicked good.

    • Reply shannon March 4, 2015 at 9:37 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the maple cream comment: seriously, how can something NOT be good if it’s swimming in maple cream? Impossible. That’s just science.

  • Reply Amateur Hour | eggton April 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    […] cried when she left.  I also cried when I read what Shannon over at A Periodic Table wrote for me here because it made me feel lucky and loved and like we just might get through this.  Your comments […]

  • Reply Katherine April 16, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Tonight is one of those nights when I come back and read this, and the comments. I do it when it’s been a long day with the baby or I’m mad at Scott. In addition to loving the words, I love remembering how I felt when I first read it. I was lying in bed just a few days home from the hospital, and I was in so much pain, to be honest. A couple kinds of pain. And then I saw this and was so surprised and touched. I was just overwhelmed by your kindness as well as the beauty of what you wrote, and I was also moved by the support of our friends who commented. I myself didn’t comment at the time because I was holding bag of frozen peas on my boobs and I was crying.

    You are a wonderful person and mom, and I am lucky to know you.

    • Reply shannon May 6, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      KATHERINE: you make me shed tears reading this and i can’t even blame it on postpartum emotion anymore!

      You are amazing. I love how you are a parent, and the gusto and humor with which you have approached parenthood. We have big, long roads ahead of both of us and i hope we get to travel them together. I’m lucky to know YOU. xox + tears, me 🙂

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