We've had a contentious relationship, carrots and I.
Don't get me wrong, I've never had a complaint about a carrot stick, crunched by itself or dipped in hummus for a snack, but until a few years ago, I didn't want to have anything to do with a cooked carrot.
My clearest memories are of pot roast—not one of my preferred childhood meals anyway—at which time I would take the carrots that were forced on my plate and carefully mash them into mounds of potatoes, sometimes theatrically holding my nose and gulping milk after choking them down.
When I visited France in high school, I bravely swallowed endless mouthfuls of carrots puréed in cream without complaint, silently mystified by the radical change from crunchy and sweet to mushy and cloying.
My first positive experience with cooked carrots was in a holiday Tofurky—never my favorite Christmas meal, but one that my husband still adores. The "meat" was tightly wrapped with carrots, potatos, and onions, then dressed with a soy sauce-based dressing before cooking. One Thanksgiving afternoon one of those carrots found its way onto my plate, and never one to refuse a food another chance, I bit into it.
What a revelation! The carrot was sweet and tender, with an earthy complexity that would be unrecognizable in a raw carrot.
From that inauspicious start, I have become quite enamored of the lowly cooked carrot. In soups and stews, puréed or roasted, I spend much of the cooler months finding new ways to cook and eat carrots.
Enter braising—is there a better way to cook in the winter? The oven warms the house as flavors deepen and vegetables slump into tender piles of comfort. I am partial to this fantastic cabbage recipe, to be sure, but last night I wanted carrots to take center stage.
Here is the result: halved carrots, braised in stock with honey, ginger, and onions until just tender, then heated under the broiler until just beginning to brown. Infused with ginger and the sweet complexity of honey, these would be a delicious accompaniment to roast chicken, pork chops, or even, I suppose, a pot roast.
Braised Carrots with Honey and Ginger
1 ½ pounds medium carrots (about three bunches)
½ large white onion
3 inches fresh ginger, peel scraped or cut off
2 tablespoons honey (I used avocado because it's what I have in the house)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock, or water
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
Peel the carrots, or thoroughly scrub them if you trust where they came from and like the skin. Keep smaller carrots whole and split large ones lengthwise. For presentation, I like to buy carrots with the tops, trim so that about one inch remains. Arrange carrots in an au gratin dish or other medium baking dish.
Thinly slice the onion half and add to the carrots. Cut the peeled ginger into matchsticks, halving once lengthwise if desired, and scatter over the carrots. Drizzle the honey, olive oil, and stock over the carrots, season with salt and pepper, and toss well to combine. Cover with aluminum foil or a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven.
Cook 45 minutes to an hour. Toss the vegetables well; if the carrots are not completely tender, recover and cook 15-20 minutes more. When the vegetables are completely tender, uncover and place the vegetables in the top half of the oven and turn on the broiler. (Note: if you don't have a broiler, simply uncover the dish and increase heat to 450˚.)
Broil until the edges are beginning to blacken, 5-10 minutes.
Serves about 4