This week, we’d picked up a double share of carrots from the CSA, so we knew that we’d have to figure out a carrot dish. Often, we just eat the carrots as carrot sticks, or shred them for layering on sandwiches, but, this time, we thought we’d try something different. We wanted it easy — not necessarily quick — but easy. So we invented this dish, with the idea of using the smallest carrots we had, cooking them a long time in butter to make them tender and concentrate their flavor, and add a bit of crispness for texture from the sage leaves.
It turned out well enough that we thought that you might like to try it, too, so let’s scratch up a batch. Note that, in the photos below, we’re making this carrot dish for just one person; if you follow the amounts and instructions below, you’ll have about twice as much.
Did you know that what most people think of as baby carrots — those little nibs sold pre-packaged — are not baby carrots at all. They’re just ordinary carrots that have been peeled, chopped, and whittled. That’s it. Now, some of you are saying, “but it says baby carrots on the label.” No, look closely; it says, “baby-cut carrots,” or some such thing. Meaning not baby carrots, but something cut to resemble baby carrots. So, does it matter? Only to your pocketbook, as we often see the bags selling for up to $1.99/lb, while ordinary carrots are 59-69 cents per pound, meaning you’re paying someone over a dollar a pound to chop carrots for you. If you think that’s a good deal, great; otherwise, consider cutting up your own carrots. Full disclosure, we will pick up baby-cut carrots while traveling for something to snack on in the car. Now, we’re using real baby/junior carrots, but baby-cut carrots, or carrots you cut yourself will be fine. For the honey, consider buying some from a local honey producer. We used to buy local honey, and it was the best deal going; a great-tasting honey for about $10/quart, but that resource is no longer available to us, so we’re on the lookout for another local honey source.
Procedure in detail:
Melt butter. In a skillet over low heat, melt butter and add the carrots. Let the carrots cook, partly covered, in the butter until they’re beginning to get tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add sage. Add the sage leaves, stir, and let the sage and carrots cook, turning and stirring occasionally, in the butter until the sage fries and becomes crispy, 30 to 45 minutes. During this stage, we covered everything with a piece of baking parchment so steam could escape, but it would hold in the heat. Placing a cover slightly askew will achieve the same thing.
Add honey. Stir in the honey, and allow it enough time to a simmer, about 10 minutes. This will give the carrots time to absorb some sweetness from the honey. Yum.
Salt. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt, just enough so that you can see some flakes stuck in the honey.
Serve immediately. Plate the carrots before the salt has too much time to dissolve, then top with a bit of garnish, if desired. We happened to have just a bit of flat-leaved parsley left, so that went on, but, if we didn’t have it, we would have had the carrots garnish-free.
We really liked the fact that the sage leaves were nice and crispy, providing a crunch, similar in texture to a potato chip, but bursting with sage flavor. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with the honey and butter combination for the sauce, but we think that what really helped was the long cooking time, as it allowed some of the moisture to cook out of the carrots, concentrating their carrot-ness. We think that this would also make a nice dish to make up in the oven, perhaps with a baking time several hours long, allowing the carrots and honey to caramelize. If you go the baking route, we’d suggest a low oven, perhaps 300°F, and several hours of baking. Let us know how it turns out. For this, with its right on the stove simplicity, four stars.