scorzonera gratin – Schwarzwurzelgratin










If you are an afficionado of white asparagus, then by now you are already aching quite badly for the next asparagus season to come around since mid-spring is months away, so absolute agony (remember Cartman wanting a Wii, pacing up & down in front of the shop while trying to summon the day to arrive: “Come on, come ooon” ?). There is a remedy though and winter bestows upon us many marvellous things like snow, Christmas and …scorzonera.

A scorzonera is a root of many names: black or Spanish salsify, winter asparagus, oyster vegetable etc. and its delicate, subtly sweet taste is best described as a mixture of all these exquisite things. It is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and grows really well (up to 1 metre or over 3 feet) in loose, sandy soil. The almost primeval appearance of the thin, sandy black roots belies a fine ivory-coloured flesh, which has to be preserved by plunging them immediately after peeling in an acidic bath. Best to wear disposable gloves for the whole procedure since the milky sap is extremely sticky.

Quite an old, native (Southern) European vegetable – documented to be grown in a Swiss garden in the first half of 16th century – the name Spanish scorzonera denominates not only its origins from the Iberian pensinsula but also alludes to the black root’s medieval purpose as an efficacious cure for snake bites (the plants name meaning black viper in most Romance languages). Today it is more cherished for its nutritious benefits & as a delicious winter vegetable.

While the black roots have experienced a Renaissance in some countries after decades of neglect in the abyss of uncool & outmoded, Schwarzwurzeln, as they are known in my native Germany, luckily never went out of style here. They are available both fresh and in jars and are mostly served boiled with a béchamel sauce (also the recommended treatment for salsify by Mrs Beeton).

To whom this sounds quite old-fashioned and well, beige, should seriously consider having them in a GRATIN, which in my book brings out all those sweet asparagus & delicate oyster flavours. The slightly lemony sauce is seriously addictive and a golden cheddar-panko breadcrumb crust adds a crunchy texture. A winner over the unicoloured beige on all fronts.


scorzonera gratin


Can’t help  day-dreaming about those cookies in the header picture? Me neither. I know, I swore not to make the Sauerrahmplätzchen (sour cream cookies with a plum butter filling) this year but … they were really, really that good. Being a little late regarding all things Christmas, my cousin and I have just started the Christmas baking with the children on Saturday with these and Swedish Gingerbread aka Mormor Larssons Pepparkakor (on its way).


Scorzonera gratin

Serves 4, adpated from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage. Winter’s on the way


1kg (a little over 2 lbs.) scorzonera roots
juice of 2 lemons
500ml (2 cups) of water
1 litre (1 quart) chicken stock or vegetable stock
200ml (1 cup minus 2 tbsp.) white wine like a slightly acidic Riesling
30g (2 tbsp.) butter at room temperature + butter for the gratin dish
30g (4 tbsp.) flour
100-150ml (½ cup) cream (whipping cream or heavy cream)
75g / ¾ cup cheddar, coarsely grated
panko breadcrumbs to taste (I scatter a generous handful about 50g or ½ cup)
salt & white pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400° F. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.

Prepare a lemon-water bath for the peeled scorzonera roots and get your utensils ready: newspaper for the peels and sand, vegetable knife and peeler. Don disposable rubber gloves and peel the black skin with a vegetable peeler, quickly cut each peeled root into 8-10cm (3¼-4 inches) long pieces and quarter them lenghtwise before plunging them immediately into the acidic water to prevent the ivory flesh from discolouring.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock together with the white wine and therein simmer the drained scorzonera pieces for 5 minutes until tender but still crisp. Remove them from the saucepan with a slotted spoon to the gratin dish and reduce the winey stock to half of its volume.

Make a beurre manié to thicken the stock by kneading butter and flour together and whisk bit by bit into the hot, reduced stock. Continue simmering & whisking until the sauce has thickened slightly, reached the consistency akin to cream. Take off the heat and stir in the cream, season with salt & freshly ground white pepper. Pour the white sauce over the blanched scorzonera until just covered (keep the rest for later, it tastes lovely on its own) and sprinkle with cheddar and panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the scorzonera gratin has a golden crust.



4 Portionen, adpatiert von Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls River Cottage. Winter’s on the way.


1kg Schwarzwurzeln
Saft von 2 Zitronen
500ml Wasser
1 l Hühnerbrühe (oder Gemüsebrühe)
200ml Weißwein (ich nehme einen frischen, leicht säuerlichen Riesling)
30g (2 EL) zimmerwarme Butter + Butter für die Form
30g (4 EL) Mehl
100-150ml Sahne
75g Cheddar (bitte gelben Cheddar und nicht orangefarbenen, alternativ ein guter mittelalter Gouda), grob geraspelt
eine Handvoll (ca. 50g) Panko Brotkrumen (= japanische knusprige weiße Semmelbrösel, kein Paniermehl)
Salz & weißer Pfeffer


Backofen auf 200°C vorheizen und ein flache hitzebeständige Ofenform buttern.

Wasser und Zitronensaft mischen und alle Gerätschaften zum Schälen und Schneiden der Wurzeln bereitstellen: Zeitung für die Abfälle & Sand, kleines Messer und Sparschäler. Einmalhandschuhe anziehen und die schwarze Schale mit dem Schäler entfernen. Schnell die Wurzel in 8-10cm lange Stücke teilen, der Länge nach vierteln und sofort in das Zitronenwasser geben um Verfärbungen zu vermeiden.

In einem kleinen Top die Hühnerbrühe mit dem Wein erhitzne und darin die Schwarzwurzeln ca. 5 Minuten kochen bis sie weich sind aber noch Biß haben. Mit einer Schaumkelle aus der Brühe heben, abtropfen lassen und in die Gratinform geben; die aromatische Brühe auf die Hälfte einkochen.

Eine beurre manié herstellen in dem man die Butter und das Mehl verknetet und diese Stück für Stück in den köchelnden konzentrierten Hühnerfond mit dem Schneebesen einrührt bis er angedickt ist. Vom Herd nehmen, die Sahne hinzufügen und mit Salz und frisch gemahlenem weißen Pfeffer würzen. Über die Schwarzwurzeln gießen so dass diese gerade eben bedeckt sind und mit Cheddar oder anderem Käse und den Panko Semmelbröseln bestreuen. Für ca. 15-20 Minuten backen bis das Gratin eine schöne goldene Kruste bekommen hat.




16 thoughts on “scorzonera gratin – Schwarzwurzelgratin

  1. I have never tried scorzonera gratin before (love the sound of the name). I definitely will try this recipe, Nicole, it looks very tasty and I love the golden color of the crust.
    Have a wonderful week xx

    • Hi Linda, I agree, scorzonera sounds much more Italian opera than parsnip. I find the delicate oyster taste totally intriguing and love how it shines in the creamy gratin. Thank you, I almost made it again yesterday for lunch only to get a daylight picture of that beautiful crust… Maybe today. Have a wonderful week, too. N xx

  2. Wow what a great recipe! I’ve seen salsify in the stores and was too scared to touch them. What a great use for them. I didn’t realize they had an oyster type taste. I’ll have to try them soon!

    • Please do. My Dad loved them the old-fashioned way, I on the other hand love this gratin.
      Warning: Please do not use your best knifes and do the whole newspaper, CSI gloves thing. I did it once without and scrubbed hands, knives, sink, board for hours. The sap is quite similar to pine sap – sticky. There is an alternative way to prep in boiling them first for 5 minutes and peeling the skins off afterwards, but the ivory roots get quite grey which in this case is quite undesirable.
      Tell me how you found the taste, I think it is simply spectacular. N.

  3. HI again Linda,
    Such a coincidence! My weekly vegetable delivery had some scorzonera in it and I was stuck for a recipe. Luckily, I found you once again! Thank you ever so much for the recipe.
    Kind regards,

    • Hi Jeanette,
      glad to have you back and to help you out of a sticky spot there (..and plunge you right into the sticky root preparation). Hope you’ll love the gratin as much as we do, I could bathe in it. Curious to hear your expert opinion about the next recipe: pepparkakor to start this year’s Christmas baking madness. How is the surfing? Hopefully you’re not flooded already and still have to go to the beach for that. Nicole xxx

      • Hi Nicole,
        Surfing is COLD! I’m constantly drawn to the sofa, a good book and the open fire. Can’ t wait for the summer. But: Christmas first!
        Pepparkakor are easy to make and fill the house with a gorgeous smell. I have a fantastic recipe for a french version that includes almonds. An added bonus is that they are also quick to make as you roll the dough into a log and cut them (a bit like a salami). I have been meaning to post it but must translate it from Swedish first. Thank you jolting me into possibly getting it done soon 🙂
        Hope your baking goes well – can’t wait to see the results!
        Jeanette xxx

      • Hi Jeannette,

        Brr, I can imagine. Sofa, book & fire, yes, yes & yes, please. So behind in all things Christmas and baking, that’s why pepparkakor were first on my list. I love the smell, instant-Christmas feeling included. Mmh, I am definitely trying your almond version, which sounds close to the German Spekulatius with almonds. Do you know them? I find there is even more spice (and all things nice) in pepparkakor. Loving your salami-cutting-method, I only know the Pippi Longstocking way of rolling out the dough (not necessarily on the floor) and stamping out shapes with cookie cutters. Baking has started and thanks for all the patience, Nicole xxx

      • Hi Nicole,
        Yes, I do know of the Spekulatius and they are kind of similar. Although the former is a much more organised and beautiful kind 🙂
        I have just had posted the salami-messy-ones which is just as well as this morning a kind fisherman has decided to gift me 12 kilograms of various fish and shellfish. Now I’m up to my elbows in guts and gore and my mind is buzzing with fish recipe ideas. Will scout around your blog for great things to do with cod, plaice, crab and lobster! Hope you and your family have a peaceful and joyous Christmas from all of us in a foggy and wet Bath. xxx Jeanette/surfcook

      • Hi Jeannette,
        Super, I’ll go and have a look at the salami-messy-ones, can’t wait. Wow, envious about your fish-haul (not about the guts, though) and a little sorry for not finding a lobster recipe here, yet, although I had one only a few weeks ago all to myself and had just steamed lobster (shall put it on flickr soon) with a lemon mayo & the other half became a lobster roll the next day: just lobster meat, a really good mayonnaise, spring onions on a soft bun, swoon. Crab, I have made crab cakes but they were only so & so. Mmh, maybe I should try again.
        For the other fish: try my recipe for fish cakes or any fish steamed in a parcel aka en papilotte: or swap cod for the salmon in the citrus-spiced salmon recipe, that should be truly wonderful:
        Merry Christmas to you & your family, too from an equally inundated Hesse. Nicole xxx

      • Thank you Nicole, they both look amazing – and healthy! I have a sneaking suspicion that I will put on a few pounds, so something lean is very welcome. Enjoy the holidays and try not to cook all of the time 🙂 I still have a few presents to buy, so if you see someone looking crazy and stressed, it will probably be me. Looking forward to seeing more great writing from you in 2015! xxx J

      • Hej Jeanette,
        thank you for all the good wishes (someone looking crazy and stressed? – we must have rushed past each other several times), all the best to you, too and a Happy New Year! Of course I cooked like crazy, seen my cake? N xxx

  4. Oh yumm, this sounds so delicious and luxurious. I LUVLUVLUV scorzonera – my favorite way of preparing them is cutting them in one inch pieces and slowly caramelizing them with a knob of butter, some salt and sugar and just a splash of water in a covered saucepan. A gratin is a very good idea! Especially since the scorzonera themselves – although they are rather light, have a really decadently rich character (I think). Thanks for the inspiration! Cheers – Tobi

    • Hi Tobi, thanks a lot! How lucky are we to live in an area where there is an abundance of Schwarzwurzeln? Your way sounds delicious: I can just imagine how great they lend themselves to being caramelized and bathed in butter. Nice with the steak on Sunday, thanks in return from the harassed Christmas shopper (who dared to go into Frankfurt on a pre-Christmas Saturday!). Cheers back, good idea, Nicole xx

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