A delicious side dish for any occasion, Roasted Parsnips and Pearl Onions with Thyme and Sage, is a great potato substitute; is loaded with simple, rustic flavours; and is very cost effective. Seasonal root vegetables never tasted so good!
I can still remember the very first time I tasted parsnips. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. This must have been in 2003 or 2004. I was visiting Newfoundland with my now ex-wife, and we were invited to her grandmother’s for dinner.
Her grandmother was awesome and so funny, and she could cook very well, so I was super excited to go to her house for dinner. In Newfoundland tradition, she had prepared a very common and very tasty Newfoundland dinner. Often refereed to by Newfoundlander’s as Jigg’s Dinner or Cooked Dinner, (depending on what part of the island you’re from, or if gravy is served with it or not – it’s complicated!) it consists of lots of root vegetables and salt beef cooked all together in the same pot.
My mom used to prepare this meal quite often, in fact, she prepared it at least once a week. My dad still likes to make this dinner and he does it quite often as well. I’ve never tried to make it and I never will. It’s cumbersome and intimidating. I prefer to have someone prepare it for me, but just so you know, I’m from the school of people that think the meal is useless without gravy. No can do!
Cabbage, turnip, carrot, and potato are the most common vegetables boiled in the pot along with the salt beef, but on very special occasions, you’ll find pea’s pudding, (yellow split peas secured tightly in a cloth bag and submerged in the broth) bread pudding, (stale bread with onions and seasoned with things I can’t name) or turnip greens – my absolute favourite! Oh, and sometimes there’s even dough boys (dumplings) as well. I never really cared for those.
In addition to the salt beef, which I refused to eat my entire life, there’s usually a roast beef or a roast chicken to accompany the meal as well. It’s a big meal and you’ve got to be hungry! Mom would always – without fail – prepare a pastry as well. I’m not sure what this pastry was made from, but it was rather simple. She always referred to it as a ‘crust.’ It was a little sweet and cake-like, but it was so delicious with gravy poured over top of it. (Don’t judge me!)
Now that you have an overview of what the meal consists of, let’s get back to my ex-wife’s grandmother. In addition to all of those things, she had parsnips in the pot with the other root vegetables as well. I remember thinking, “Oh, white carrots; I’ve never seen these before.” Needless to say, they were delicious and my love of everything parsnips was born.
Roasted Parsnips and Pearl Onions with Thyme and Sage is not as cumbersome, of course, but it’s loaded with flavour. I love the outer parts of the parsnips and how it turns slightly brown and caramelized. But, the inside remains soft and tender, almost like the texture of avocado. (Am I the only one who makes this comparison?) The pearl onions, of course, are sweet and browned, and so tender. Paired together, along with the comforting fall flavours of thyme and sage, Roasted Parsnips and Pearl Onions with Thyme and Sage is a wonderful side dish option.
Even though this dish just screams thanksgiving dinner, you can make this dish anytime! Pair this side with roasted chicken and some sauteed green beans for a delicious wintry dinnertime favourite. And, if you live in my world, a little gravy wouldn’t’ hurt either!
- 5 large parsnips, peeled and cut into large bite-sized pieces
- 20 white pearl onions, peeled and halved*
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the parsnips and onions to a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well to coat.
- Spread the onions and parsnips onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle over the sage and thyme and using a metal spatula, move the parsnips and onions around - trying to mix in the sage and thyme is basically the goal here.
- Place back in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
- *You can substitute the pearl onions with two large yellow onions or eight-ten shallots.
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