When I travel, I bring a stack of food magazines to read for inspiration. On a particular cross-country flight, I was prepping for a new season of my TV show and saw a recipe for a parsnip gratin. I thought, "Well, parsnips are root vegetables. I love root vegetables in general. What if I just do a bunch of root vegetables all together in a gratin?" A few days later, I was basking in the creamy, cheesy glory of my latest creation. You'll do the same. You can slice your root vegetables with a knife, but I recommend using my favorite kitchen utensil, the mandoline, and then taking care to spread the thin slices evenly. This dish transforms a quartet of ordinary roasted root vegetables that might not otherwise cohabit the same baking dish into old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing comfort food. Later, you can ask, "When was the last time anyone asked for more parsnips?"
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the potatoes, beet, fennel and parsnips into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Toss together the vegetable slices, salt, and 3/4 cup of the cream in a large bowl.
2. Spread half of the mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish. Top with 1 cup of the Parmesan. Top evenly with the remaining vegetable mixture. Pour the remaining 3/4 cup cream over the vegetables, and top with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
3. Uncover and bake until the vegetables are tender and the cheese is golden brown, another 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool for 15 minutes before serving with some black pepper ground over the top.
This recipe has been updated and may differ from what was originally published or broadcast.