Three years ago, my mom entered the hospital for what would be the last three weeks of her life. I hope you don’t mind when I talk to you about her
and what she (and we all) went through. I find it therapeutic. Cathartic.
Every year, part of me feels as though I am reliving these painful moments all over again. The sleepless nights at the hospital, tending to her most basic needs as she grew afraid of the dark. The mumblings about her life in the dead of night… memories I’d never heard before. The butterfly hallucinations that occurred in the very last days, and caused by high doses of painkillers. The sight of her body, stripped down to skin and bones as she became unable to keep any food in. And through all this, the panic in my head as I came to grips with the fact that very soon, she would be gone. “Stay calm, she needs you”, I kept telling myself.
I was not ready. Nobody prepares you for seeing the person you love most suffer so much before your eyes. As time progressed and her condition worsened, I just wanted this nightmare to end. I could not deal with it any longer. But an end to it meant she would be gone forever.
Sometimes, I forget that she hasn’t been in our lives for three years. Life happens… new memories are formed, and I forget that she was not part of these moments. I forget that she never met Jason. I forget that she never saw my life in Montréal. Surely, this forgetfulness must be a sign that she is still with us, omnipresent.
And somehow this brings me to today’s recipe. I’m not sure how exactly. But in trying to find inspiration for today’s post, this story came to mind. I feel lighter having shared it, so thank you for listening.
This rutabaga & apple gratin is mildly tart & sweet. Paired with good cheese and fresh thyme, it is truly delicious.
I promise to share spring recipes soon enough.
Rutabaga & Apple Gratin
- 2 pounds rutabaga
- 2 large apples
- Half red onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup aged cheddar, grated
- 1/2 cup gruyère, grated
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Fresh thyme, a few sprigs
- Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Peel the rutabagas and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a generous pinch of salt. Parboil the rutabaga slices for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, core the apples and slice into 1/4 inch rounds too. If you don’t have this (completely unessential) gadget, you can achieve the same result with a paring knife.
To assemble the gratin: In a rectangular baking dish, start with one layer of rutabaga slices – season lightly with salt & pepper, followed by one layer of apple slices. Top with half of the onions, fresh thyme leaves and half of the cheese.
Repeat with one layer of rutabaga slices – season lightly with salt & pepper, followed by one layer of apple slices. Top with the remaining onions and fresh thyme leaves. Top with the last layer of rutabaga slices – season lightly with salt & pepper.
In a small bowl, combine the vegetable broth with apple cider vinegar. Pour evenly over the dish.
Cover tightly and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Uncover, top with the remaining cheese and bake for another 10-12 minutes. For the last 2 minutes, set the oven to broil until the cheese is nice and golden.
Remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes.
Top with fresh thyme leaves and serve.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish.