Search This Blog

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My Best, Easy Roasted Carrots

Intuitively, is seems as though roasting carrots should be simple.

I mean, put 'em in the oven and bake.

Well, because carrots have such a high natural sugar concentration, what is difficult is hitting that sweet (tee hee) spot of roasting, without going too far and having really saccharine or even caramelized carrots. 

Which I've done.  Several times.  Some people like the sweetness of carrots, but myself (and the wife as well) prefer to actually downplay the sweetness.

Usually this means upping the savoury factor.  Some fresh herbs and an extra pinch of a good salt... and a very light cooking.

Again, usually, this light cooking is a quick steaming or blanching; my preferred method for cooking vegetables anyway, as this retains as many nutrients as possible.

Indeed, my philosophy for vegetable cooking has always been to err on the side of undercooked.

I like a bit of bite to my fresh veggies.  Even as a child I would much prefer eating veggies raw.  Many a meal saw me excused from the table only after my 'approved veggie quotient' was fulfilled from a handful of raw carrot sticks.

I digressed a bit there, sorry.  My point is that, when it comes to carrots, I like a good bite to them and I prefer them savoury over sweet.

So, I am always tweaking my veggie cooking, and one method for cooking carrots has just naturally risen to the top, and works quite well for me.

So here it is, my best, easy, roasted carrots.

First, don't peel them.

Scrub them.

I own a carrot peeler, but I don't think I've used it to peel a single carrot in over a decade.

Just give em a good scrub with a mushroom brush, or if they're particularly dirty, scrub them with an abrasive cloth under some running water.

If they're really, really bad, I might take the back (dull) side of my knife to them in places, but only in extreme cases.

Next, leave the tops on.  Trim the bottoms (the stringy root part) neatly, but leaving a bit of green on top adds a good deal of class.  :)  Yes, they are edible, too...

Snip most of the foliage off (if you know you're going to be making a stock or a soup soon, save these!!  Such incredible flavour in those leaves and stems), but leave a 'nib' of about an inch of the green tops.

Then drizzle a small amount of vegetable (avocado, myself) oil into the palm of your hands, spread it about a bit and then transfer it to every part of the carrots.

Next, sprinkle a generous handful of fresh, finely chopped green herbs of your choice.  I'm partial to marjoram or oregano, but I've used basil, tarragon, thyme, and others, with great success.

If you want to eschew the green herb thing, another (although ofttimes overused) option is some cracked cumin seed.  Something about carrot and cumin really works.

Anyway, for this particular batch, I decided to use a fair bit of fresh basil leaves.  Just toss them on top and then sort of mess the carrots about.  Be sure to add a generous pinch of salt too.  It's ok to add a bit of salt to vegetables.  It really is.  Don't be afraid.  You need some salt in your diet, remember.  Better it comes from your own hand than from some processed, packaged, box of food garbage.

If you're thinking I've not chopped them out of laziness, you're wrong.  I deliberately leave them whole.  They cook better; able to withstand the heat necessary to cook most of the carrot, but without turning to mush, or worse, becoming too sweet.

Then spread the carrots out evenly on a roasting or baking sheet, ensuring a good amount of space between each one.

Mmmmm!!!  So shiny and bright!!

Then place them in an oven at about 375, and don't go far, because it will take less than 10 or 15 minutes.

It's hard to tell, really.  And, because no two carrots are exactly the same, to provide a steadfast length of time for roasting doesn't really work all that well.

Instead, use your senses.  The skin should start to look a little wrinkly, and dull, and the tips (depending on how much of the stringy tip you've left on) should be burnt.  Yes.  If the tips are not burnt when you take the carrots out, you've likely not cooked the innermost parts enough.

Anyway, take them right off the pan and plate them prettily. 

If you'd like, at this point, you could drizzle a fine finishing oil on top.  A thin stream of delicious truffle oil, or even just a high quality extra virgin olive oil, can not only add a pop of flavour, but can also really brighten up their appearance.

Myself, I did not.

I was going for an healthier (read: not so rich or heavy) version of these.  So while I often do add a finishing oil and sometimes even a finishing salt, those touches are certainly not needed, and the carrots are absolutely fine on their own.

More than fine.


P.S. - This simple roasting method works REALLY well with heirloom carrots, so if you're looking to impress or entertain, be certain to try this with some funky purple and yellow varietals!