Roots a la Crème

The pairing of the two classic root vegetables, carrots and parsnips, with a rich cream sauce is fantastic. The herbs and a small amount of garlic are not overpowering, but make this dish mouthwatering.

18th Century

Take some large roots scraped and washed; boil them half an hour; cut them in large slices, and put them into a stew pan, with a bit of butter, a bunch of parsley, scallions, a clove of garlic, two shallots, two cloves, and some basil; turn them a few times over the fire, and put in a little flower, salt and whole pepper, with some good broth; let them boil and reduce to a thick sauce: then take out the bunch of herbs, and add the yolks of three eggs beat, and some cream. Thicken it over the fire, taking care that it does not boil, and, before it is used, add a little vinegar.

Menon, “The French Family Cook” 1746.

21st Century

  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 medium parsnips
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 3 small scallions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 shallot about one inch round
  • A small pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp. or so of flour for thickening
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup cream
  • (Optional) — 1 tsp. white vinegar
  1. Peel your carrots and parsnips and cut them in large slices. Boil them until you can stick a fork in them easily (usually 15 to 20 minutes).
  2. Drain and transfer them to a stew pan. Add the butter, parsley, scallions, garlic, shallots, cloves and basil.
  3. Over a medium heat stir well to blend the butter and seasonings with the roots.
  4. Add flour, salt pepper and broth. Boil quickly, stirring as you do, until it thickens to a sauce. Remove from heat and reduce your heat to medium.
  5. Beat your egg yolks in a separate bowl and blend in the cream until both a combined.
  6. Add the yolks/cream to the roots and over the medium heat stir in until well blended and smooth. Take care not to boil or scorch this.
  7. Serve.

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12 Responses to “Roots a la Crème”

  1. July 28th, 2013

    Jo Ann Ptack says:

    I have always felt that this receipt was for a cream of vegetables…not creamed vegetables. The directions say “…with some good broth; let them boil and reduce to a thick sauce”. Having made this in a class following the original receipt…I was removing the vegetables (not part of the receipt) because I knew I was going to have mush when I realized that perhaps we were anticipating the end result to be creamed vegetables…not a cream of vegetables.
    Can you explain how you arrive at your adaptation?
    Thanks.

    • August 5th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      Thanks for your observations JoAnn.

      This was a recipe we looked at years ago and thought that if it were a ‘vegetable cream’ it would have been used somewhere else in other recipes, much like a roux. Since we’ve worked with this recipe no other use for a ‘vegetable cream’ has surfaced. We thought it was more of a French influence to cream your vegetables. Since Menon was one on the cutting edge of that influence we felt we were justified in creaming the vegetables. The vegetables will be soft but not mushy.

      Always good to hear other peoples experiences and input. Much appreciated.
      Dennis Cotner

  2. August 5th, 2013

    Helen Robison FitzGerald says:

    This is one visually unattractive unappealing dish – by 21st standards.
    However “tasty” it might be, looks kill. And wouldn’t they in the 18th century?

    Their aesthetics were very different from outs. I need not tell this group. This dish begs out for discussion. Is it homy or elegant? Why – the ingredients, the presentation? I still have a hard time believing the ubiquitous display of lemon slices as a garnish.

  3. August 5th, 2013

    Jo Ann Ptack says:

    Dennis,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and expertise.
    As always, I’m looking forward to the next receipt.
    Jo Ann

  4. August 6th, 2013

    pam williams says:

    I’ll softly disagree…it sure matches the “whiteness” desire, and to me, anyway, it’s sort of “comfort food” looking. And…Menon was, correct me CW guys if I’m wrong, sort of the harbinger of “bourgeois” cuisine? I know that’s spelled wrong) cuisine? I always want to think anything creamed falls into that category. Likely diet snobbery on my part!!!! LOL!

    Per previous comments, I have made this dish as well – with it being a sort of mélange of veggies in cream, the other as a “cream.” As with so many others, one has to wonder if theres a comma omitted someplace, or exactly what a specific word was before translation, or, of course, it’s one of those things we are supposed to “intuit,”

    Mushiness of stuff – fun evidence maybe of French vs. Hannah Glasse. If memory serves me, someplace early in one of her iterations, she talks about cooking broccoli – and advises that you should NOT cook it til mush…of course, she also refers to French cooks as “boobys!”
    Ms. Pammy

  5. August 8th, 2013

    Historic Foodways says:

    This dish certainly might not be the best in looks (beauty and the eye of the beholder and all that!) but it does have a rich flavor and can fall into the category of a comfort food. As I stated in my previous feedback we felt that this dish was as we made it since we have not found much in the way of ‘vegetable creams’ out there. If there are and we’ve missed them please share it with us. We are always looking for additional ‘fun stuff’ in foodways. As for our use of lemons and oranges there are a number of references to using them as garnish however in our case it helps the photography of the dish and keeps it from being rather plain looking.

    Love the discussions, thank you all.
    Dennis Cotner

  6. August 8th, 2013

    pam williams says:

    Will be cooking dinner for General/Governor Wm. Smallwood at Smallwood’s Retreat in Southern Maryland in two weeks. This receipt on the menu! Hopefully can manage a photograph.
    Ms. Pammy

  7. August 19th, 2013

    Pam Williams says:

    Well, I “rooted” for General Smallwood yesterday. The three cooks had copious discussion about this receipt. We have decided it’s a big question mark. However…it was delicious – and it looked lovely. The carrots lend color…I used fresh parsley, which did not cook down, but stayed green. We all agreed that the taste was better after it had stood a few minutes and cooled off somewhat. Not sure about photo…but am sure I will make this again! If photo is forthcoming, I will post.

  8. November 9th, 2013

    Georgia Renck says:

    We are using this to round out a hearth cooked meal being served at Mount Harmon. I will gladly share any pictures of the table before everyone dines.

    Yes, it may not be as colorful as we are all accustomed to viewing; but, I’m expecting the flavor to more than make up for any color blandness. I’ve found fruit and herb garnishes a great way to banish the pasty white aspect of creamed anything.

    Because the vinegar is optional, I’m not too worried – however, I know I’ll have inquiries so, when would the vinegar be added to this dish? I don’t wish to add it at the incorrect time and effectively curdle the cream sauce.

    Thank you so much and thank you for creating this online resource for those of us who are called to the cooking hearth. It’s absolutely fantastic!

  9. April 20th, 2014

    Kaysha Silva says:

    I had a lot of fun with this recipe. Next time I think I’ll add a bit more pepper, but it was super filling and surprisingly easy. It was a lot tastier than expected for sure.

  10. July 18th, 2014

    Jay T says:

    I really enjoyed making this recipe. It certainly doesn’t look very appealing when made (at least my one didn’t) but boy does it taste good! I’d imagine it’s pretty healthy also.

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