I have a confession to make: once upon a time, I HATED beets. The only beets I had encountered were the slimy canned variety, usually served as "salad" in my childhood - oog. Then, with Sparky's help, I discovered beet chips - and realized there was more to these vegetables than I'd previously thought. We also tried them on the grill in summertime, dressed with lime juice and melted butter - delicious. The crowning glory came when I decided to add cut-up beets to the bottom of my roasting pan along with a chicken - these roasted beets came out caramelized, chewy - absolutely incredible. I decided to see if I could replicate this recipe using beets alone, spurred by Ideas In Food's experiments with beets.
Confit is an ancient method of preserving meat, where it is slow-cooked in its own rendered fat for a long time, and then cooled and stored while submerged in the solid fat. It preserves the meat in much the same way canning does, by eliminating both the moisture and oxygen bacteria need to grow. We are playing fast and loose with this idea today and cooking beets partially submerged in fat. I keep a jar of drippings by the stove - any meat drippings that are solid at room temperature get strained and put there. If you don't do this, you can use any fat you like: olive oil, butter, lard - whatever, just use a LOT; you will need enough to submerge your beets half-way without crowding the baking sheet.
I found these spectacularly beautiful beets at my local grocery store - when you come upon near-perfect produce, make sure you offer compliments to the produce manager. That person is the single barrier between you and dingy beets with shriveled, chewed-up greens...I made sure to find the store manager to relay my gratitude!
Next, Sparky and his friend Dr. Lasergonapus set to attacking the beets: the good thing about beet cleaning is that you can play zombie apocalypse with all the beet blood and guts; an easy sell for two boys who weren't necessarily going to admit to being fans of a vegetable.
First, they cut the top off each beets (stems and greens were lovingly saved for another use) and then, standing the beet on the cut end, they sliced them in half.
They then peeled each half, and sliced it into quarter-inch half-moons.
Then - AAAGH! ZOMBIES!
I poured my drippings onto a cookie sheet
and tossed the beet slices in the fat, coating each one well on both sides.
The whole thing went into a 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping them once halfway or until the edges of the beets caramelized, the circular grain became pronounced, and the tops were a bit blistered and bubbly.
We removed the cookie sheet carefully from the oven, and then used tongs to put the beets on a rack to drain. After draining, the remaining puddles of fat were blotted off with a paper towel.
The beets were spectacularly chewy, sweet and delicious.
I admit they were even better under the roast chicken, so if you have a roast, follow the same directions but take advantage of your meat - but cooking them this way works in a pinch! Enjoy!