Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon
Article

The Carrot 2-Step

The long, thin sides of a carrot stick provide plenty of surface area for browning.

Save to Recipe Box
Print
Add Private Note
Saved Add to List

    Add to List

Print
Add Recipe Note

by Susie Middleton
from Fine Cooking #116, pp. 52-57

I grow carrots in my garden on Martha’s Vineyard and sell them at my little farmstand. The darn things are so popular (especially in spring, when corn and tomatoes are still a dream away) that we pull them from the ground at 7 a.m., arrange them in bodacious bunches on the farmstand, and by 10 a.m., they’re all gone. Except for my hidden stash, that is. See, I love carrots, partly because I grow them, but mostly because years of cooking have taught me how to coax the best flavor from them. The secret? It lies in a two-pronged approach.

First, carrots benefit from a bit of browning. Sautéing, stir-frying, or searing them until they’re slightly caramelized softens the mineral edge to their flavor and makes them taste more complex. It also jump-starts the cooking process, so less moisture is needed to make them tender.

Second, carrots are dense and firm, so a bit of moisture is a must to ensure that they cook through. This can be added liquid or simply the natural steam that forms in a covered pot full of aromatic vegetables. Don’t add too much liquid, though, or you’ll wind up with mushy results (think boiled carrots). A just-past-al-dente texture is the goal.

In the recipes that follow, I’ll show you a handful of ways to put my two-step method to use; there’s a stir-fry, a sauté, a ragoût, and a quick roast. Once you taste what a difference this method makes, you might start hoarding fresh carrots, too.

Featured Recipes:
Sautéed Carrots with Ginger, Orange, and Scallions Pan-Roasted Carrots with Leeks, Pancetta, and Thyme
Sautéed Carrots with Ginger, Orange, and Scallions Pan-Roasted Carrots with Leeks, Pancetta, and Thyme
Stir-Fried Shrimp and Carrots with Toasted Almonds Carrot, Fingerling Potato, and Pea Ragoût
Stir-Fried Shrimp and Carrots with Toasted Almonds Carrot, Fingerling Potato, and Pea Rago
Flavors Carrots Love

Carrots’ sweet, earthy notes are enhanced when paired with boldly flavored ingredients. Stick with the usual suspects—aromatics like ginger and garlic, bright herbs like mint, and citrusy lemons and limes—or create your own flavor combos using any of these slightly more unexpected touches:

  • Tart, tangy balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, or pomegranate, blood orange, or cranberry juice
  • Warming cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, garam masala, coriander, or ancho chile powder
  • Salty black olives, capers, salt-cured lemons, or anchovies
  • Nutty toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or pine nuts
  • Spicy crushed red pepper flakes, fresh chiles, or hot pimentón
  • Fresh chervil, cilantro, chives, or tarragon
  • Sweet hoisin sauce, maple syrup, or dark agave nectar
Shape Makes a Difference
How a carrot is cut has a big effect on how it cooks. I prefer not to cut carrots crosswise into coin shapes, as these tend to stick together and overlap in the pan, which causes them to steam before they brown. Instead, I generally opt for a stick shape, halfovals, or quarters. Here’s why:
  Shape How to cut
Carrot Sticks Sticks: The long, thin sides of a carrot stick provide plenty of surface area for browning. Plus, sticks tend to knock each other around in the pan, which keeps air circulating around them and allows moisture to evaporate. Peel and trim the carrots (Here’s a quick peeling tip). Cut each crosswise into 2 to 3-inch pieces, then cut a thin lengthwise slice from each piece so that it has a flat surface to rest on. Lay the carrots on the flat sides and slice them lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch-thick planks. Stack several planks flat and cut them lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch-thick sticks (depending on the recipe). Try to keep the sticks similar in overall thickness.
Carrot Ovals Half-Ovals: For a stir-fry, I’ll often use a rounded shape, like half-ovals, which brown in the pan but are also large enough to hold their own in the company of bulky ingredients like shrimp or broccoli. Peel and trim the carrots. Cut each in half lengthwise and lay the pieces cut side down. Slice the carrot halves crosswise at a very sharp angle into 1/8-inch-thick
Carrot Quarters Quarters: I cut carrots into quarters for roasting; the long, thick shape holds up well to extended cooking times
and provides plenty of surface area for caramelization.
Peel and trim the carrots. Cut each in half crosswise, then cut each piece in half lengthwise.

Photos: Scott Phillips

Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Videos

View All

Connect

Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.