I can’t promise that any of your beet-averting family members will do a complete 180º turn on their opinion when it comes to these earthy roots. I will suggest that this casserole might be your best chance to convert them. Baby beets are mild and sweet, and their flavor is less assertive than their grown-up relatives. In this recipe, they are thinly sliced and smothered in layers of orange and garlic-infused sour cream and a generous shower of nutty Gruyère cheese. All of the flavors meld together, and while the beets are present, they are not overwhelming in flavor. As the beets cook, they release their juices and saturate the dish with spectacular color, which makes this one of the prettiest gratins I have seen. So give it a try, and let the skeptics eat with their eyes – and also hopefully with a fork.
Baby Beet Gratin with Orange and Thyme
I prepared this recipe with a variety of red, golden and chioggia beets. So long as you scrub them well, you don’t need to peel them (and their skin is a great source of nutrients). This recipe has you assemble the gratin in a casserole dish. You can also divide it between smaller ramekins or cast iron vessels, such as 2 (6-inch) cast iron skillets (pictured above).
Makes 1 (7 by 9-inch) gratin
16 ounces whole milk sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper
16 baby beets, about 2 pounds trimmed, scrubbed clean
4 ounces finely grated Gruyere cheese
Finely chopped thyme leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter a 7 by 9-inch square gratin dish. Whisk the sour cream, garlic, orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.
2. Thinly slice the beets with a mandolin or knife.
3. Arrange 1/3 of the beets, slightly overlapping in the baking dish. Spoon 1/3 of the sour cream over the beets, carefully spreading to cover. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the top. Lightly season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of thyme. Repeat with two more layers.
4. Transfer to the oven and bake until the beets are tender and the gratin is bubbly and golden, about 50 minutes. Serve immediately or slightly warm.