Sweet potato and parsnip oven fries

April 1, 2006 at 6:44 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I cut two parsnips and a (peeled) sweet potato as thinly as I could, placed on a cookie sheet and tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then baked at 400 degrees. The small parsnips started to get crispy way before the large rounds of sweet potatoes (especially since the sweet potato had way more water than the parsnips). I kept pulling the crispy pieces off and putting the sheet back in the oven. And the smaller sweet potato slices went from crisp to totally black burnt quite quickly, so I lost a few that way. The fries were quite tasty, especially the very crisp parsnips (I’m not sure I’ve ever “fried” them before). However, clearly if I make this again I need to get my sizes more even, with the parsnip pieces larger than the sweet potatoes. Maybe I’ll even try again today for lunch!

Okay, I tried it today with the sizes a bit more even, but still there was enough variation for some sweet potatoes slices to turn black while others were totally soft. My guess is using more oil would help things cook more evenly?

A third try rather than cutting the veggies into round slices I diced them pretty fine, so they’re much more even. I started them off in my cast iron pan on the stovetop with a bit of canola oil spray, then when i had them all cut up added a little salt and pepper, and put them in the oven at 400 degrees. They got a bit dried out but definitely not burnt. The combination is really quite nice. The parsnip cuts the sweetness of the sweet potatoes quite a bit, but both flavors come through quite well.

Rating: B

Derek: B+

Update December 4, 2010:

Roasted carrots and parsnips with rosemary

Today I tried roasting carrots and parsnips in the oven, following (mostly) a cook’s illustrated recipe:

1 pound carrots , peeled, and cut into long planks (see below for details)
1/2 pound parsnips peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise (see below)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used 1.5 Tbs.)
1/2 tsp. table salt and 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (I didn’t have any so left this out)


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, combine carrots, parsnips, and rosemary with butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Transfer carrots to foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and spread in single layer.
  2. Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook, stirring twice, until carrots are well browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Toss with parsley, transfer to serving platter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
How to cut the carrots: 

  • LARGE (over 1 inch in diameter) Halve crosswise, then quarter each section lengthwise to create a total of 8 pieces.
  • MEDIUM (½ to 1 inch in diameter) Halve crosswise, then halve wider section lengthwise to create a total of 3 pieces.
  • SMALL (less than ½ inch in -diameter) Halve crosswise. (Leave sections whole.)

Cooks’s Illustrated says:  “Carrots contain more pectin than any other vegetable, so we decided to try a trick we’d developed to keep pectin-filled apples from turning mushy when baked in pie. For this technique, we precooked the apples long enough for the pectin to convert to a heat-stable form that would protect their interiors against high temperatures. Our research told us that by precooking the carrots, we could trigger the same reaction, but with a different outcome: Stronger cell walls would help keep moisture in, minimizing withering. Instead of dirtying another pan by precooking the carrots on the stovetop, we decided to precook them right on the baking sheet. We got the oven good and hot, lined the pan with foil (or parchment), buttered and seasoned the carrots, tightly covered the baking sheet with aluminum foil, and cooked them until they resisted slightly when poked with a fork. We then slid the uncovered baking sheet back into the oven until the moisture had burned off and the carrots took on nut-brown caramelized streaks. At last, these carrots were tender-firm and distinctly sweet, with minimal withering.”

My notes:

I’ve tried this recipe twice now, just cutting the butter a tad.  The first time I cut the carrots perhaps a bit small, and they started to burn far before the 30-35 minutes was up.  I used the fan in my oven, which perhaps didn’t help.  I cut the parsnips the same size as the carrots, which was a mistake.  I don’t know why, but parsnips get dried out and hard long before carrots have started to caramelize.  Also the veggies were a bit too salty. I couldn’t really taste the rosemary.

The second time I cut the carrots a bit larger and cut the parsnips almost twice as big as the carrot batons.  I didn’t peel the parsnips.  As a result, the parsnips kind of steamed in their own skin.  The inside of the big parsnip pieces were the consistency of mashed parsnips or parsnip puree.  Derek liked them but I would have preferred a crisper texture.

The CI recipe says that after 15 minutes with tin foil the carrots are supposed to resist slightly with a fork.  Mine did not, so I left them under the tin foil for another 5 minutes.  But then after 15 minutes uncovered they were again starting to burn, so I turned the temperature down.  I don’t know why I have so much trouble with this recipe.  I just can’t get my carrots to come out like they look in the picture on the CI website.  Also, the carrots even after getting caramelized, simply aren’t that tasty.  They’re fine, but nothing exciting.  Either I don’t like roasted carrots all that much, my carrots aren’t very good, or there’s something not quite right about this recipe.

And the parsnips are even trickier than carrots.  I tried cooking another batch cut in skinnier batons with oil instead of butter, and peeled, and although a few turned out how I envisioned them, they were mostly either too dried out or too steamed.  Maybe to get crisp parsnip “fries” you need more oil?  But they certainly tasted oily enough.  I’d actually prefer to use less oil.  Maybe I crowded the pan too much?  I added about 2 1/3 pounds of veggies to one cookie sheet (including a sweet potato, which is pretty wet).  The CI recipe says to add only 1.5 pounds.  That left my cookie sheet pretty sparse.  I think 2 pounds should be okay, but more than that is obviously too much for the veggies to roast properly.

Permalink 1 Comment