Braised Roots & Occam’s Razor

May 14, 2010

Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.
~Victor Hugo

Attributed to a 14th century English friar, William of Ockham, Occam’s razor is the heuristic principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem). So, it follows that the simplest solution is usually the correct one.

As the esteemed Stephen Hawking noted in A Brief History of Time:

“We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam’s razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed.”

In the kitchen and on the table, the same principle of parsimony often reigns. Slowly cooked root vegetables are a culinary epitome of this theory…agrestic simplicity.

Just cut the turnips and celeriac in roughly the same sizes as the other roots so they cook fairly evenly. Please do not fret — the perfection of imperfection should be the goal.

BRAISED ROOT VEGETABLES

1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter
1 lb parsnips, trimmed, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 lb smaller carrots, peeled and tops trimmed
1 lb turnips, trimmed, peeled and cut thickly lengthwise
1 lb celeriac, trimmed, peeled and cut thickly lengthwise
4 large shallots, trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 C chicken stock
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 T unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into bits

1/2 C parsley and thyme, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the olive oil and butter into a large pot over medium high heat. Add the vegetables, toss to coat well and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken stock, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add butter and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with mixed herbs.

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