For the holidays, we totally don’t go for traditional recipes. This is due partially to me remembering jello salads and various different riffs on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup from my childhood. This is also partially because of my husband’s opinion that turkey is really dry no matter what, and usually requires way more effort than a roast chicken with a lot less of the flavor. We go for things that are seasonal and comforting, but that might not be found on other holiday tables. For example, when my family came to Thanksgiving at our house in 2009, we made an unconventional assortment of foods. If anything can be said, it is that my family is not boring.
For appetizers there were goat cheese stuffed dates, bruschetta, and a vegetable tray. For the main course, it was Beef Wellington (a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that took us four days), cauliflower braised in white wine with anchovies, hearts of palm and butter lettuce salad, carrots quick-braised with maple syrup, and mushroom bread pudding. There were pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese filling and chocolate cream pie for dessert ( I snuck some cayenne pepper in the pie when my dad wasn’t looking because I used to be crazy like that).
In more recent years we’ve scaled it back quite a bit, but those carrots still remain a good vegetable option. We made them again tonight. They are super easy and delicious.
RECIPE: QUICK-BRAISED MAPLE CARROTS
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”
Makes 4 servings
Time: About 20 minutes
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Minced fresh parsley, mint, chervil or cilantro leaves for garnish
- Even though Bittman gives a choice of butter or 1 tablespoon of oil, I really think that the butter complements the flavors of the carrots much better, so I go with that. Bittman also gives you a choice of maple syrup or 1 teaspoon of sugar, but I happen to think that the maple syrup really adds more of a complex and deep flavor than just using the sugar. Place the carrots, butter, water, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil and cover. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes.
- Uncover and raise the heat a bit. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are braising in the butter. Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, a couple minutes longer.
- Taste and adjust salt & pepper if necessary, then garnish* and serve.
* Here, Bittman also gives you a choice of herbs to garnish the carrots with. My husband is one of those people, like Julia Child, who would rather throw cilantro on the ground than eat it (he thinks it really overwhelms whatever dish it is added to). In our house, we pretty much garnish most things with Italian parsley, as it can add a fresh and bright taste without changing the flavors too much.