This recipe calls for 1 pound of parsnips. A good rule of thumb is that 1 pound of parsnips is equal to 4 smalled-sized parsnips or 2 medium-sized parsnips.
When at your local grocer, be sure to pass the big, fat parsnips as they tend to be woodier. Instead, always opt for the firm small to medium-sized ones as these will be subtly sweet with nutty undertones that you are looking for in this dish. Also, be sure to skip any that are limp or discolored.
Use any waxy, thin-skinned potato you may like for this recipe as they are low in starch and high in moisture; meaning they retain their shape when sliced and then baked.
Use only the white and light green parts of the leek. I find that their mild onion-like, slightly sweet flavor complements the savory undertones of the dish really well.
You can use regular milk or lactose-free milk. To keep this lower in calories, we used fat-free (skim) milk, but any type of milk will work.
Whole garlic is used to steep in the cheese sauce. Feel free to peel cloves yourselves or buy pre-peeled cloves at your local grocer.
To thicken the sauce, we used all-purpose flour. For gluten-free alternatives, we suggest using a cornstarch slurry instead of trying to use gluten-free flours.
Dijon mustard offers a subtle spicy component to the rich cheese sauce. If you cannot find Dijon or do not have any on hand, spicy brown mustard would be a wonderful substitution as their flavor profiles are extremely similar.
Salt & Pepper
Note that we recommend table salt for this recipe. You may use kosher salt instead, but you will want to double the amount.
White pepper has a distinct earthiness to its flavor that pairs extremely well with the earthy almost musky flavors of the nutmeg in the sauce.
Ground nutmeg adds a depth of flavor to the cheese sauce. The subtle spicy profile of nutmeg really offers a lovely contrast to all the creaminess of the cheese and milk.
Day-old sourdough is the perfect bread source to make homemade breadcrumbs. This bread is a wonderful option for those who find themselves more sensitive to grains and gluten. While not gluten-free, and should not be consumed by those with diagnosed celiac, those who have grain sensitivities find it easier on their digestive systems to consume in moderation.
It is also a great option for diabetics as it has a low-glycemic-index meaning it will cause a gradual increase in blood-sugar levels versus a spike.
To make this lower in saturated fat, we used good quality extra virgin olive oil when adding to the bread crumb mixture.
Paprika and Garlic Powder
Used to season the breadcrumb mixture, the paprika is also used to give it a slight color.
Freshly shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese is used in the cheese sauce and on top of this casserole. We find that full-bodied, tangier flavors of this cheese pairs well with all the rich elements of this dish, however; if you would prefer to use just a sharp cheddar that would be delicious as well.
Freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano is used in the cheese sauce of this casserole. We find that the distinct nutty flavor of this hard Italian cheese pairs well with the flavors of this dish, however; if you are not a fan of this Parmesan, feel free to substitute in Pecorino Romano.
To garnish and to give the dish a pop of color, fresh parsley is finely chopped and sprinkled on top. If you are unable to locate fresh, feel free to leave off.