Recipes and Stories

31 March 2014: More Spring Carrots

March 31, 2014

Tags: Spring Carrots, Spring Cooking, Butter-Braised Carrots, Butter-Braised Root Vegetables, Classical Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking

Butter-Braised Whole Spring Rainbow Carrots
Most of the nineteenth century cookbook authors treated all root vegetables the same way: scrubbed them well, trimmed, and sometimes “scraped them nicely” (that is, peeled them), boiled them in abundant salted water, and then dressed them with salt and butter. So long as the roots are not overcooked, it’s still a fine way to cook them.

But to limit oneself to that lone method is to miss out on one of the loveliest ways to cook any spring root vegetable, which is to gently braise it in butter until it’s a pale gold on the outside but just barely tender on the inside. It’s the same ingredients, but the shift in method lends the vegetables an entirely different character.

Butter-Braised Spring Carrots

Serves 6

2 pounds spring carrots, preferably small “baby” carrots (3-4 dozen small or 6-8 long, slender ones), with green tops still attached
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt

1. Scrub the carrots under cold running water and trim their tops, leaving a half inch or so of the green attached and reserving a handful of their liveliest green fronds. If they’re really young and fresh, don’t peel them, but if they’re not as young as you’d like, lightly skin them with a vegetable peeler. If using baby carrots (less than 4 inches long), leave them whole. If larger, cut them on the diagonal into 1½-inch lengths of as much same thickness as possible (leave slender parts whole, cut thicker pieces into halves or quarters).

2. Melt the butter in a lidded 3-quart sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the carrots, and sauté, tossing frequently, until they’re beginning to color pale gold, about 4 minutes.

3. Add a large pinch of salt and a splash of water. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and braise until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add water by spoonfuls as necessary. Meanwhile, finely chop enough of the reserved green tops to make 2 tablespoons.

4. If, when the carrots are tender, there is liquid left in the pan, remove the lid, raise heat, and cook, gently tossing, until any excess liquid is evaporated. Taste and adjust the salt, sprinkle with the chopped carrot greens, give them one last toss, and serve warm.