Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Glazed Over

 
I've been trying to fight off the flu for the past two weeks, and I've had to concede this week that I was fighting a lost cause. So I've been spending my days off sleeping in, dragging myself out of bed only for the bare essentials: feeding the cats and the birds (I pour the bird seeds out on my balcony ledge, so that I can spy on the cardinals and squirrels from my bed -my only form of entertainment all week!); making pots of tea; and getting a load of laundry done. I haven't had the energy to cook, luckily, my freezer was full of soups. But I have been craving something, and I didn't dare make it until today: glazed carrots.


The carrots have been sitting in my fridge since the fall, the last vestiges of my CSA basket. Though I was told that there are still carrots to be had if I could get myself to the farm, I had been hanging on to them like precious jewels. I was biding my time until I could muster the courage to make them... Glazed carrots are nothing complicated. In fact, they're really easy to make, and were they any other carrot I would have glazed them as soon as the craving hit. But these carrots were special, and they deserved proper treatment: I wanted them to turn out like my mother's glazed carrots. 


It's kind of a running joke in my house: my boyfriend is always comparing my carrots to those made by my mum. Even I have to admit my mother's carrots are the best, and mine trail far behind. On any given day, my glazed carrots will do the job, but when I am sick or feeling down and out, the only glazed carrots that will hit the spot are those from my mother's kitchen.


So, today I set out to glaze carrots like my life depended on it. I know where I go wrong: I remove the pot from the stove before the carrots are done. Yes, I know, it sounds silly -in this day and age, when one is told to eat raw! eat just barely cooked!- that the secret to perfectly glazed carrots should be to overcook them to the point where they start falling apart. It seems nonsensical, but there you go. In fact, the beta carotene in carrots is more readily available when the roots are fully cooked, so there is reason to all the madness after all! There are days when al dente carrots will do, and there are others when mushy carrots are just what the doctor ordered. 


A word on the carrots: they need not be fresh from the farm, but you should avoid overly big carrots, as they most often have a woody core, and those mini-carrots that come in a plastic bag are a big no-no. If you take a close look at those 'baby carrots', you will notice that they are simply larger carrots whittled down to miniature proportions; they are mostly tasteless core, and have very little of the carrot's sweet flesh. I prefer my carrots on the smaller side, no more than 2cm/ ¾" in diameter, but larger ones can always be halved or quartered, as long as woody ones are avoided.


Glazed Carrots
Serves 2, as a side order

500g/ 1lb carrots (about 8 small, 5 medium, or 2 large)
1 Tbs butter
½ tsp sugar
salt and pepper

Wash, peel, top and tail carrots.
Slice into 5mm/ ¼" rounds, halving or quartering the larger end of the carrots.
Place in a pot with a fitted lid. 
Just barely cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt.
Cover the pot, and bring up to the boil.
Leave the carrots to cook, covered, over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are al dente (cooked, but firm).
Remove lid, lower heat to medium, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until most of the water has evaporated.
Add the butter and sugar.
Shake the pot to help dissolve the sugar and glaze the carrots.
The carrots are done when all the water has evaporated, and the carrots are shiny.
Adjust the seasoning.
The carrots can be kept warm until the rest of dinner is ready, or they can be re-heated later, but they are at their best served immediately.


When I was a kid, I went through a long phase when I despised carrots. It was impossible to make me eat them unless they were cooked and cunningly camouflaged, though I would make exception for these glazed carrots. If you have a fussy eater, add an extra pinch of sugar, and he or she will be won over. You can prepare most root vegetables, frozen peas and corn in the same manner, just adjust the cooking time. Glazed carrots and onions are the classic side dish in French cookery for stews and braised meats, but they are delicious with anything you can think of, or on their own. For those days when I am not attempting to channel my mother's cooking, I like to add something extra to the carrots: a pinch of ground ginger; a few cumin seeds; a squeeze of orange juice; gratings of garlic... Use your imagination, and make these carrots your own.


Bon app'!






2 comments:

  1. My mom makes pretty amazing glazed carrots too. She uses Chinese brown sugar which they sell in blocks. Delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rock brown sugar sounds good, Mimi!
    What is it with mums and glazed carrots? I wonder...

    ReplyDelete

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