I have a small confession to make: despite my best intentions and my resolutions for the new year, I’ve already cheated. Maybe even more than once. My Saturday work plan isn’t going so well and, about those cookbooks I supposedly swore off, I found myself overcome by temptation about three weeks ago when I took the dog, went to Mrs. Dalloway’s and bought a copy of Diane Morgan’s lovely book, Roots. To be fair to myself, I did check to see if not one, but two public libraries had the book (neither Berkeley nor Oakland carry it) before I resigned myself to cheating.

And let me tell you, there’s been little cause for regret. The book is revelatory–beautifully photographed (a given these days in Cookbook Land) and incredibly informative. Truth be told, this is part of the reason I wanted it: it’s not just a cookbook, but a reference book, or, as Morgan calls it, a compendium. I wanted to know about root vegetables beyond carrots, beets and turnips: how to store them, types, nutritional information. The book contains all of this–and a lot more. There’s a whole world out there filled with lotus root, rutabaga, jicama and salsify! It’s kind of amazing and inspiring all at once. I’ve always been a sucker for research and well-conducted research is even more of a pleasure. 

As far as cookbooks go, this volume is also extremely useful. In the weeks that I’ve had it, I’ve already cooked from it numerous times. There was the Moroccan Carrot Salad with Chickpeas and Prunes (Heidi at 101 Cookbooks wrote about this, although she used pluots instead of the much maligned prune), Cream of Celery Root Soup, Mashed Rutabaga with Sour Cream and Dill and the list goes on. I haven’t been disappointed once. The roll I’ve been on with this book–when combined with the stream of root vegetables my CSA keeps sending me–continued this past week with Butter-Braised Baby Carrots with Dill.
Tender carrots, sweet, syrupy butter, the sharp aroma of dill (which can penetrate even my congested sense of smell). Need I say more? It cooked quickly and was well worth the time spent scrubbing the carrots under a stream of crisply cold water. It made for a wonderful side dish for a steaming bowl of polenta with wilted, garlicky spinach.

Armed with this book, I have no desire to break my resolution again. At least for now. And maybe not even after I’ve sampled the surprisingly tempting sounding Carrot Margarita….

P.S. Sorry for the Instagram/iPhone photos, but life these days keeps me on campus from 10:30-5 and the sun disappears much too quickly for my liking.

Butter-Braised Baby Carrots

slightly adapted from Diane Morgan’s Roots
yields about 4 side servings of carrots

The original recipe called for sherry vinegar, but I decided to go with honey cider vinegar instead, wanting to play up the sweetness of the carrots. I also added more than the required 1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill because, well, I always get a little heavy handed when it comes to fresh herbs. There is also my current obsession with Grains of Paradise (doesn’t the name tell us everything we need to know?), which I’ve been putting on everything; I had searched for these for such a long time and, thanks to Frontier Co-Op and Whole Foods, I finally found them. Needless to say, I’m not squandering my discovery; I’ll also say that I think these carrots–and everything else I’ve put them on recently–have been all the better for it.
         In terms of method, I braised according to Diane’s instructions. I will say, however, that I decided to cook my carrots for a little longer than the suggested 15 minutes. When I tasted them, they didn’t seem tender enough. It may be that my carrots were a bit chubbier than true baby carrots; in any case, you want these to be tender, so adjust the cooking time to your carrots and conditions. And, even with an additional 10-12 minutes at a very low heat, the carrots still maintained their bite without being at all limp.
          For variation, I think these would work beautifully with fresh tarragon; I think the bitterness of the tarragon would complement the natural sweetness of the carrots. I also think you could go the spicy route and add cumin, too. Really, with a recipe as classic as this, consider carrots a blank canvas eagerly awaiting whatever changes you might desire.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch baby carrots, green tops removed (you can leave a little on for a nice contrast in color)
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon honey cider vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground exotic peppercorn blend
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

-Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, gently rocking the pan so that the butter coats it evenly.
-Add the carrots and stir, making sure to coat the carrots with the melted butter.
-Add the stock, vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorn blend and bring to a simmer.
-Reduce the heat and cover. Braise until the carrots are tender, yet still crisp, about 10-12 minutes.
-Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium, stirring frequently until the sauce begins to thicken and the carrots soften, about 10 more minutes.
-Place the lid on the skillet and braise the carrots at a very low heat for an additional 3-5 minutes.
-Remove from heat and and taste; adjust the seasoning (I found that another round of the peppercorn blend and a few dashes of salt were in order).
-Carefully arrange the dill on top of the carrots and serve immediately.

6 thoughts on “All About "Roots": Butter-Braised Baby Carrots

  1. Another addition to my extensive cookbook wishlist! Thanks for the suggestion; it looks fantastic. And those carrots look amazing! I wish I could grab some through the screen, but alas, it is not to be.

  2. I am glad you had at least one little splurge, and this looks like such a good one! I have been intrigued by it as well, so I am happy to hear that it's awesome. Sending lots of love and warmth your way, friend! I know this is a crazy time, but I look forward to the day when we can skype with leisure:) Miss you!

  3. I love a cookbook that offers more than simply the recipes – stories, history, information about a culture or region of the world. Have to add this one to my list. Right now I'm in the middle of An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler – may be my new favorite.

  4. Thanks, Elizabeth! It's definitely worth buying; I generally feel if there are two or three things I would make regularly, then the book is definitely a winner. In this case, there are so many recipes that are just excellent that there's no way a person would not like this book.

    And if only we could grab the food we wanted through the screen….It might be really amazing or really dangerous. Maybe one day such a thing will well and truly be.

  5. Thank you! Splurging can be good, although I'm allowing myself *only one.* I would say that when you're next on the market for a cookbook, this should be the one; I could cook from it every night and not be bored. We even tried the carrot margaritas last night and they were a winner. It might be worth it just for that recipe alone.

    And yes to skype!! We'll have to do it sometime soon!

    Miss you, too!

  6. I really liked An Everlasting Meal; I read it in the spring and I enjoyed the writing and the culinary simplicity that she was advocating.

    This book is fairly light on stories; there are short headers for each recipe, but the information that goes into each chapter in terms of the root vegetables themselves is quite compelling.

    I honestly think it's one of the best purchases I've made in a long time and that's saying a lot!

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