Monday, July 20, 2009

What's Up, Doc?

How do you feel about carrots? I've always been sort of wishy washy on them, not really claiming to love or hate them. The truth is I really don't mind them in a dish, in fact, I completely understand and enjoy the flavor they bring to the party, but I would never really think to buy carrots and cook them at home. This is once again the benefit of challenging myself via my CSA produce, since the one time I actually bought a bunch of gorgeous rainbow carrots at the farmers market I was so uninspired that by the time I actually tried to use them they'd turned to carrot juice. But this week I received a pound of absolutely stunning baby carrots that couldn't help but inspire me. As I researched different recipes I did all I could to ignore the classic and stereotypical images of baby carrots dancing in my head (1980's cruise ship dinner, wedding side dish, public school lunch).

Once I dealt with those issues, I began to consider different flavor profiles. I'd already decided to roast the carrots whole in order to preserve their gorgeous color and shape, but what kind of direction I'd take in terms of flavor was still up in the air. I eliminated entirely sweet treatments early on knowing that they'd only remind me of the Thanksgiving carrots that always remain uneaten on my plate (why choose carrots when there's mashed potatoes?). I finally figured that what I'm not always crazy about with carrots is that they are inherently sweet. Fortunately, these little guys were not only young, but hadn't been grown during the colder months when they usually develop their sweetness. So with only a fraction of the sweetness of larger fall and winter carrots, I decided to pair my baby carrots with a slightly sweet but mostly sour and spicy sauce that would punch up their flavor and make them worth my time.

My baby carrots had lovely long green fronds on top just like Bugs Bunny's always did and the ones in the super market never seem to have. I left just the bottom inch and a half on each carrot for color and well, because they just looks so much nicer that way. The sauce/marinade was simple with a pretty basic base of water, olive oil, vinegar and honey. To that I just added some dry spices for heat and flavor, along with some minced garlic that roasted to sweet perfection in the oven. The sauce doesn't even need to be cooked, just whisked quickly in a bowl before being poured over the carrots. They actually cook surprisingly fast (mine were small and only took 15 minutes), but in just enough time for me to dredge and fry some dijon mustard and almond crusted chicken paillards. In fact, they were a great side dish that almost stole the show from and excellent main course, and would go really well with a pork roast or any steak preparation. Despite my less than positive memories of baby carrots these really were super elegant and delicious. SO if you're not too keen on carrots give these a go, you just might become a convert.

Roasted Sweet, Sour and Spicy Baby Carrots

10-12 baby carrots, scrubbed and peeled
2 Tbsp warm water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chile powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
big pinch of salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

2. Whisk all ingredients (except for carrots) together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add carrots and toss to coat.

3. Place carrots on a baking sheet and top with remaining sauce mixture. Cover baking sheet with foil and roast in the oven until carrots are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your baby carrots. Serve piping hot. Enjoy!



Nadia P said...

Hey Laura, Have you ever considered adding a page to your blog with a list of all the cookbooks you own/get inspiration from?

Love the babies! (carrots, I mean)


Laura said...

Hi Nadia!

I have indeed been thinking of doing something like that, only I'm still not quite sure how to go about it. I usually start out with some idea or ingredient, then flip through a cookbook or two, then do some recipe database searches, and then do some food photography research, which can be surprisingly helpful in developing a recipe. I use so many different types of inspiration from so many places that I haven't amassed as many cookbooks as I'd like. But I am quite picky about which cookbooks I do use, so perhaps I will start out with a post on them and see what I can do from there. Thanks for the suggestion!