February 25 2015

The Rotisserie Riddle of Our Beets

New York-Table Talk

We all know that meat tastes better when cooked low and slow—whether the method is Southern BBQ or a fancypants sous-vide machine. But slow-cooked vegetables are something else. Soft, flabby, tasteless, they remind us of our unhappy childhoods. Liberated by adulthood, we can roam the big city feasting freely on al dente beans, raw fennel and hard-boiled broccoli. We can even pretend that we enjoy eating in the same manner as rabbits, guinea pigs, and vegans. But for those who yearn for something more, we have four words: Narcissa’s rotisserie-crisped beets.

Photo by Paul Wagtouicz

Widely lauded as one of the best dishes in New York City last year, our edible taproots are a long-simmering love affair between the beets grown at The Locusts, our upstate farm, and a vertical rotisserie machine in the Narcissa kitchen. Chef John Fraser, a vegetarian in off-duty hours, began stoking the flames 18 months ago, eager to explore what would happen to a beet if rotisserie-roasted for an hour. Then two hours. Then three. Then four. At five hours, there was a eureka moment: the beet’s skins had not only crisped up like an umami-crusted piece of meat, but the insides had turned into a subterraneous splurge of sweet and savory pulp. A bed of horseradish sauce to play up the meatiness, and a diced cucumber-apple salad for freshness complete the dish.

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Narcissa is nestled next to The Standard, East Village at 25 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003.