I am never without carrots in my crisper. Carrots are peeled, chopped and dropped in a container for future snacks. Carrots are filler for soups, casseroles and salads. How often does the carrot or any vegetable for that matter get to be the main event? Not often. It all changed for me when I found a recipe for braised carrots. Reading over it, I realized that it was a lot like the method my mom uses for making my favorite holiday dish — brown sugared sweet potatoes.
Now when it comes to cooking vegetables, I tend to primarily roast them. Sticking fresh vegetables in a searing hot oven, drenched in olive oil and studded with coarse salt and pepper transforms vegetables into their best possible selves (If you doubt — roast cabbage — you will be amazed at the transformation).
Carrots, for me, are the exception. Braising carrots in a bit of butter and water helps to soften them gently before turning up the heat and caramelizing them with brown sugar. With braising you can still get the crisp-around-the-edges of roasting by turning up the heat at the end. (Yes, you do need to keep an eye on it so it is a bit more hands on than roasting, but it is worth the extra effort.) Sprinkle on fresh or dried dill at the end and you have a vegetable worthy of sneaking bites before setting the table.
If you have the willpower to put the leftovers in the fridge, these carrots are delicious the next day warmed up with hearty grains and more fresh herbs.
Makes 4 servings
— 1 pound carrots, peeled, quartered and cut into 1-inch sticks
— 1/2 cup water
— 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
— 2 tablespoons brown sugar
— 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
— Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place carrots, water and butter in a large pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes or until water comes to a boil. Lower heat to medium, sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar over top and put the lid back on to simmer for 15 to 20 more minutes or until carrots are tender. Continue to add more water a tablespoon at a time if needed until the carrots are tender. You want to make sure the pan isn’t dry until the carrots are done cooking. Once the carrots are ready, turn up the heat to medium-high, stir in the other tablespoon of brown sugar, place the lid back on and allow the carrots to caramelize and brown around the edges for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dill and black pepper.
Source: Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking”