When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’m all about tradition. I want my grandmother’s turkey stuffing , my sweet potatoes, my mashed potatoes, and Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without Grandmother’s pumpkin pie. It’s just wrong to take them away and try to be fancy. After that, though, there’s room for creativity. That’s where these carrots come in.
The day I made granola to send to my son a few weeks ago, I still had the agave syrup and cranberries on the counter. The fridge was bare but I was feeling too lazy to go to the market if I could postpone it for another day. Further inspection yielded the presence of enough leftover roast chicken to eke out a meal and a bunch of yellow carrots from the farmers’ market. And so, eyeing the cranberries and the agave syrup, a new carrot dish was born. I’m probably not the first to think of this combo, but it is definitely beautiful enough to merit a place at the Thanksgiving table.
I never really appreciated how much I took carrots for granted until I started buying them at the farmers’ market. If the tops are still attached and vibrant, you know the carrots are fresh and a fresh carrot is a revelation. I had begun to notice a musty and unpleasant smell hanging about in those little bags of “baby” carrots, but since they were so convenient, I just rinsed them. And rinsed them. But once I sampled a freshly picked carrot there was no going back. Pungent, sharp, crisp and well, carotty, in a really good way.
How to Cut A Carrot
This may seem like an overly elementary point to make, but for you beginners out there (and for all my newbie cooking students) I want to emphasize that the easiest (and safest) way to cut a vegetable is with the flat side down.
First of all, carrots, once peeled, should not be just hacked into chunks. (As my old friend Bernard would say with a smirk on his face, “eet ees for the peoples, not for the an-eeh-muls!”) And they should be cut into pieces of approximately the same size. Not only do they look better that way, but also they will cook evenly. To cut a long vegetable like a carrot or a stalk of celery in half lengthwise is tricky, but it is a less demanding task if you cut across it to make 4-inch (approx) lengths, a length that your hand and knife will be able to manage smoothly. Then, cut the shorter lengths in half the long way.
Now, with the flat side down, you can cut the lengths into the size you want.
If you can’t find yellow carrots, orange carrots will still look and taste beautiful. Try to buy them with the tops on. You can easily double this make-ahead recipe for more people on Thanksgiving, but don’t forget about them all winter long. They will really take the boredom out of a simple roast chicken dinner. Since bunches of carrots vary in size, count on about 2 large or 3 small carrots per person.
EASY Glazed Yellow Carrots with Cranberries (Serves 6)
3 bunches yellow or orange carrots
Salt and pepper
3 slices of fresh ginger (unpeeled)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 teaspoon molasses
Juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1. Peel the carrots and cut them in half lengthwise. If the carrots are thick, cut them in quarters (lengthwise.) Cut the pieces in 2-inch lengths.
2. Bring about 1/3-inch water to a boil over medium heat in wide saucepan or skillet. Add a generous pinch of salt, the carrots and the ginger slices. Cook the carrots for about 7 minutes, or until crisp tender. They should be slightly underdone since you will cook them a little longer (or reheat them.)
3. If there is still a lot of water in the pan, push the carrots aside, tilt the pan and ladle off most of the liquid, leaving only enough to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Add the butter, agave syrup, molasses, lemon juice and cranberries. Taste and add a few grindings of pepper and more salt if necessary.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Finish glazing the carrots, but don’t add the cranberries until you reheat the dish.
Happy Thanksgiving! Check out this New York Times Article for some more “side” suggestions.
Show Off Sides: Fiery Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Brown Butter and Sage Salt, Caramelized Corn with Fresh Mint