Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Glazed Carrots (yeah, I have that much to say about them)
Imagine my excitement when I learned that one of my favorite Ma Zube's recipes was also a technique favored by Thomas Keller! That's like finding out the magical seed you found in the woods grew to be a Bacon Tree! In Bouchon Keller talks about the ease and deliciousness of glazing root vegetables. But you know what? I already knew all about this thanks to Ma Zube and a little side reading. Take that, TK!
Even people who don't like cooked carrots have tried this dish and gobbled 'em up like Hungry Hippos that drank too much coffee. This is actually alchemy due to the simple carrot being transformed into candy. This is a combination of two culinary techniques at the same time. This is easy and you will never look at a carrot the same way again. A Bugs Bunny snack elevated to Really Yummy Dish status.
Smaller carrots work best for this dish as they have more natural sugars. After you peel them, cut them into equal sized pieces. Keeping the pieces equally sized will ensure that they cook evenly and uniformly. You don't want small mushy bits and rock hard chunks. In the past I would cut my into the standard disc that you naturally cut a cylinder into, but now I am fancy! Yup, in my new fancy pants style my knife wielding hands render the whole carrot into tasty morsels via the oblique cut.
To describe the oblique cut accurately...hmm. Welp, the finished product is the photo behind my fond logo. Take your peeled carrot and place it in front of you as you would normally, (If you are a Super Ninja then it goes behind you while levitating). Instead of cutting perpendicular to the axis of the carrot (read that: the long way) cut it at a 45 degree angle. Now roll the carrot a quarter-turn to you. The next cut will also be at the same 45 degree angle, and the cut starts at the top of the carrot where the previous cut ends. Repeat. I hope that makes sense. I might try to video link a demo of this. Mostly just for fun and getting to use our new Flip video. Anywho, you should end up with little two-sided pyramids with a rounded bottom. Again, reference the title photo behind my logo. Also, you can't make too many of these scrumptious treats.
Place your pile of odd pyramids in a pan and add water until just the tippy-tops are peaking through like expectant little children on Christmas Day. (...not sure where that came from...) Plop in a couple tablespoons of butter and turn your heat to medium. The culinary trip you just embarked on is that you are going to make a simple veggie stock in the pan as the water simmers. The sugars in the carrots will dissolve out into the water and make a happy little place for the carrots to cook in.
The goal is to have all the water evaporated at the exact time the carrots are tender and perfectly cooked. So, it is almost better to start will a little less water and then add more at the end if it is needed than having too much and pouring off coveted carrot-sugar water. When the water is gone the next culinary adventure starts in the form of caramelization. Did you just blink and wonder how caramel found its way into the pan? It was there all the time! The simmering water pulled sugars out of the carrots, realized you were only interested in the sugars, got all huffy and sullen about this, and decided to evaporate away leaving the sugars behind. Now those sugars are coating the outside of the carrots and the butter you put in is keeping them greased up and the continued heat is caramelizing the simple sugar into more complex and tasty sugars. (That is one tasty run-on sentence.) You can see this happen as your carrots brown on the edges. Browning = caramelization = Srum. Diddily. Ump. Tious. After you see enough brown edges that you feel good about yourself, chuck your carrots on a plate and feast away! And yes, my spell checker hates me.