It is well documented that I will roast anything that will stand still long enough. So yesterday, when I accidentally harvested some baby beets while pulling weeds, the beets didn’t stand a chance. I’d barely been home for a minute when I turned the oven on to 450°F.
While I’m happy to slow-roast beets at a lower temperature, my very favorite thing to do with them is to slice them thinly and cook them hot and fast. The resulting “chips” are so sweet that I sometimes call them beet candy. I first discovered I could make beet candy when chef George Germon let me concoct a salad for the menu one night at Al Forno restaurant in Providence, RI, where I was a cook. He had some lovely mâche (a delicate leafy green), and I thought beets, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts would complement it. But I didn’t have a lot of time, and the wood-fired ovens at Al Forno are always running super-hot, so I decided to slice the beets really thinly and spread them out on a baking sheet to roast quickly. When they came out of the oven, they were shrivel-y and a bit black around the edges, but incredibly tender and sweet—in that deeply caramelized roasty-toasty kind of way.
I’ve loved these quick-roasted beets ever since. So much so that I keep writing about them. Fine Cooking. Fast, Fresh & Green. Now Sixburnersue. You’ll have to forgive me, but here I go again with the recipe—in case you missed it. It’s such a great way to convert beet haters into beet lovers that I don’t want anyone to be without it in beet season.
You can gobble quick-roasted beet slices right off the sheet pan. Or toss them into a citrus marinade (after roasting) and tuck them into salads. Sometimes I like to gussy them up by making little beet and goat cheese sandwiches, which I serve as appetizers. I mix some fresh goat cheese with a small amount of chopped fresh herbs or lemon zest, then dollop some on one beet slice, and top that with another. Yeah, a little fussy, but so darn cute.
This recipe is adapted from the version in Fast, Fresh & Green. The only slightly tricky part is slicing the beets. Start with a sharp, thin-bladed knife (I love my ceramic knife). Then, if your beets are too wobbly or unwieldy to hold straight, slice a very small sliver off the bottom and the beet will stay more stable when slicing. Then just cut round slices that are between 1/8 and ¼-inch thick (3/16 is ideal!). You don’t want paper-thin, or the beets will burn, so there’s no need to get out the mandolin. Here’s another tip: to prevent your cutting board from getting stained with beet juice, cover it with a piece of parchment paper or part of a brown paper bag before slicing.
About ½ pound beet roots (1 bunch, about 4 or 5 small or 3 medium, stalks and leaves trimmed), scrubbed but unpeeled, very thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large (18- x 13- x 1-inch) heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Put the beet slices in a mixing bowl and toss thoroughly with the salt, thyme, and olive oil. Arrange the slices, evenly spaced, on the sheet pan (it’s okay if they touch). Roast until the beets are tender, shrunken, wrinkled, and glistening, 16 to 18 minutes. (If your beets are very small, they can roast in as little as 10 to 12 minutes.) The smallest slices will be black around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes and serve warm. Or refrigerate for up to a couple of days.
Serves 2 as a side dish or 4 as an appetizer