Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Favorite Way to Cook Carrots

My friend Chris commented at the end of my last post that the pork and carrots pictured with the purée looked good too. I have already posted the recipe for the pork and apples, but I have never posted the recipe for the carrots...probably because they are so very easy...there isn't really a recipe. If I am roasting carrots to be served as a side dish, this is how I almost always prepare them. As I look over all of my posts, I see that these carrots have appeared in several pictures. And since the way these carrots are cooked has a lot in common with the method used to cook the celery root in my last post, I thought that now would be a good time to share the "recipe".

Carrots may be roasted just like any other root vegetable—tossed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, spread in a snug single layer on a baking sheet and placed uncovered in the oven—the oven temperature set in the range of 375° to 450°, depending on how large or how small the carrots have been cut. Although they can be very good when prepared this way, sometimes they end up seeming a bit chewy and shriveled. I'm guessing that this is due to age—since older carrots have less moisture to begin with, and the process of roasting is a dry-heat procedure, the roasting process just serves to dry them out further. The modified method that I use to roast carrots will produce a good result whether you have carrots that are young and fresh, with their green tops still intact, or bagged carrots of uncertain age from the grocery store.

In my previous post I mentioned that mature vegetables that no longer had as much natural moisture could be successfully étuvéed by adding a small amount of water to the pan to get the cooking process going. This same technique can be used in the oven. By adding a little bit of water to the roasting pan and tightly covering the carrots, they basically steam-cook until they are tender. Uncovering them after they have become tender will then allow the remaining liquid in the pan to evaporate. The carrots can then caramelize in the fat that was added to the pan at the beginning. The result is beautifully caramelized, tender carrots...with no trace of chewiness.

I usually add a drizzle of honey to the pan along with the olive oil and water. This helps the carrots to caramelize once they are uncovered. (It also enhances the flavor of carrots that might have lost some of their natural sweetness.) But you don't have to add honey. You can get the carrots to caramelize just as easily by raising the oven temperature after you have uncovered them.

Tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper with a splash of water and a drizzle of honey

Removing the foil after about 30 minutes

The finished carrots
(the dark edges of pan are from the honey--it will clean easily after a brief soak)

To roast the carrots: Peel and trim the carrots and cut them into uniform pieces. I like to cut them on a 1/2-inch thick diagonal or in something that Deborah Madison calls a "roll-cut": Make the first cut at a 45-degree angle, roll the carrot forward a quarter turn and make the next cut at a 45-angle, continuing to roll and cut until the entire carrot is cut. You can distance your cuts however far apart you like—I prefer cutting at 1- to 1 1/2-inch lengths.

Sliced on the a diagonal

The "roll cut"

Toss the carrots with olive oil and salt and pepper as usual. Transfer the carrots to a shallow casserole or baking dish that is just large enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Add a splash of water. The carrots shouldn't be swimming or in any way submerged. There should just be a thin film of water on the bottom of the pan. If you like, drizzle a little honey over the carrots. Cover the pan tightly with foil and transfer to a 350° to 375° oven. Bake until the carrots are just tender to the tip of a paring knife—about 30 minutes (depending on how thick the carrots were cut). Uncover and return the pan to the oven (increasing the temperature to 400° or 425° if no honey was used), continuing to roast until any remaining water has evaporated and the carrots are nicely caramelized—another 15 minutes or so.

Served with a Pan-Roasted Chicken Breast, a simple pan sauce and
Twice Baked Potatoes with Leeks

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