What to do with the humble carrot? Every year when winter rolls around we are tempted to hit the kitchen doldrums. Try a new preparation for an old vegetable staple with this recipe for Parmesan Braised Carrots.
The winter can be a challenging time when selecting and preparing vegetables. It often seems that our options are slim, the season stagnant and it is tempting to just stop cooking all together. But winter can offer exciting opportunities to rediscover vegetable staples and reinvent them with new preparations.
For that reason, I have been anxious to rediscover the humble carrot. I always seem to have stockpiles of them in the back of my fridge threatening to go bad if I don’t act quickly. I am also drawn to the carrot because she has lost some status in recent years to ‘sexier’ winter vegetable such as kale and radicchio. You will always find carrots at the market. You will not have to go hunting through hidden produce bins or track down a non-existent clerk to locate them. For that reason, it is nice to have a few foundational recipes for the humble carrot on hand.
One cause of consternation with carrots is deciding which type to purchase. Almost always your market will have at least two types: the bulk kind in the plastic bags and the kind that come bundled together with their tops still attached. The carrots in plastic bags are often larger than their bundled peers and have been pumped with preservatives. They last longer and often are slightly sweeter. The fresher carrots that come bundled with their greens still attached are generally narrower in girth, more perishable and more expensive.
So which type should you buy? I buy both. I like always having a large bag of carrots in the fridge because I can use it in a pinch to make a last minute meal. And those bagged carrots happen to last a long time! The narrower fresher carrots can be eaten raw and have a more ‘carroty’ flavor, likely because they have not been pumped with preservatives. I tend to buy conventional carrots instead of organic and that is a personal decision. It is noteworthy that carrots are not on Dr. Anthony Weil’s Dirty Dozen List of Produce, meaning you will not meet undue hazard if you eat conventional carrots. So I say, buy whatever type of carrot you feel like for this recipe.
The slow braising of the carrot makes it a comforting side dish for a piece of roast meat of even soft polenta. I ended up using the larger variety of plastic bag carrots because that is what I had in the fridge and I like the appearance of a wider carrot coin when presenting this dish. Serve family style on a large white platter. The orange of the carrot will pop, inducing everyone to eat more vegetables.
*Note: If you have leftovers from this dish, the carrots can be added to our recipe for Winter Chicken Stew.
- 1½ lbs carrots peeled and sliced diagonally in coins ¼ inch thick
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 8 medium leaves of sage (at room temperature with no excess moisture)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons Reggiano parmesan cheese (or if you prefer Grana Padano)
- Place the carrots in a large heavy bottomed (6 qt) sauté pan. The carrots should not be overcrowded so make sure to use a large enough pan.
- Add butter, salt, sugar and water to come to about 1/4" up the side of the pan.
- Turn heat to medium and cook uncovered for roughly 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- As the carrots braise and water evaporates, add additional cold water in ½ cup increments.
- While the carrots are cooking, heat vegetable oil over medium in a small frying pan. After the oil has heated about 3 minutes, add the sage leaves and fry for about 3 minutes. Depending on the size, they make take less time. They will turn crispy but should not be burnt, which means you should employ a watchful eye when frying.
- Remove the sage leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.
- The carrots are finished braising when they are fork tender and offer little resistance. There should be no water left in the pan, but you should see the butter sauce, which will have taken on an appealing soft orange color.
- When finished braising, plate your carrots on a large platter, top decoratively crispy sage with grated parmesan.
- Serve warm, best with roast meats!