Earthy beets are butter-browned, braised, topped with toasted hazelnut relish, and finished with dollops of creamy ricotta. Served at room temperature, this is an easy make-ahead appetizer or side: braise the beets and prepare the relish in advance, then assemble just before serving.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a peeler to peel each beet; trim the top and bottom, and cut into 3–4 slices, approximately ¾-inch wide. In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add ⅓ of the beets in a single layer. Sprinkle with 2 pinches of salt and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the beets have browned on the first side, about 1–2 minutes. Flip the beets and brown the other side, then remove and place in a baking dish in a single layer. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process two more times.
Once all the beets are in the baking dish, pour maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil over the beets. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender, 45–60 minutes. Meanwhile, make the Hazelnut Relish.
Hazelnut Relish, part 1: Cut the shallot in half through the root and discard the peel. Make vertical cuts, followed by horizontal cuts, without cutting through the root; finely dice. Place the diced shallot in a bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt to macerate (marinating the raw flavor out of the shallot), 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the hazelnuts.
Hazelnut Relish, part 2: Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 F oven until fragrant, 8–10 minutes. Wrap warm hazelnuts in a kitchen towel, then rub with force until skins fall off. (Don't worry about skins that don't come off; they can stay.) Remove hazelnuts from towel and roughly chop. Set aside. Pick the leaves from the parsley and tarragon. Roll into a bundle; rock a knife back and forth through the bundle to roughly chop leaves. Set aside.
After 45 minutes, remove beets from the oven; cool for 5–10 minutes. Check for doneness by poking them with a small knife; if it pierces the beets with little resistance, they’re done. Remove beets from the braising liquid and transfer to a platter. Set aside. Pour the braising liquid into a pan. Over high heat, reduce to about ¼ of the original amount, 8–10 minutes; stay nearby, as the maple syrup can burn! When the liquid has reduced and thickened, remove pan from heat and spoon the syrup over the beets. While the beets finish cooling, occasionally toss them to ensure an even distribution of syrup. Allow the beets to absorb flavor until you're ready to assemble the dish.
Hazelnut Relish, part 3: To the shallot-vinegar mixture, add the olive oil, hazelnuts, and herbs; stir to combine. Assembly: Arrange beets on a serving platter and top with ricotta. Sprinkle Hazelnut Relish all over the beets and serve.
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