I found the silver lining in my most recent epic cooking fail: it is possible to like cooked carrots.
Normally I find cooked carrots revolting. I can manage them raw (slathered with hummus), but boiling, steaming or otherwise smushifying them into sickeningly sweetish, squishy bits trips my gag reflex every time. And don’t even get me started on glazing them with something sweet (like orange juice, horrors!); as far as I’m concerned, it renders them completely inedible.
Then an utterly failed recipe changed my mind. (At least a little bit.)
Turning a fail into a win
Here’s what happened: a few weeks back I attempted to make the “Pappardelle with Beef and Mushroom Ragu” recipe in last month’s Real Simple magazine. Only I took this perfectly good recipe and substituted reconstituted textured vegetable protein (don’t ask) for beef chuck in a pitiable bid to make the recipe vegetarian. I thought the mushrooms in the ragu might somehow make up for the general lack of beefiness.
WRONG. All sorts of wrong. My husband and I choked down the results, but just barely. (I hate to waste.)
What went right, though, was the second step of the recipe, which called for sauteing chopped carrots with onions, garlic, and rosemary before adding them to a tomato sauce. (I wasn’t concerned about having cooked carrots in the recipe because I was pretty sure the tomatoes and long cooking time of the sauce would cover their flavor and texture.) As I followed the carrot-cooking directions, though, I was shocked to find a heavenly, savory odor wafting up from the sizzling pan. So I pinched just a few carrots from the pan before they were done, more in the interest of science than anything.
Holy cow, were they good.
Needless to say, the recipe went downhill about the time I added the faux beef a few steps later. But even though I won’t be making the meat-free version of this ragu recipe again anytime soon, I will be holding on to the carrot-sauteing part, because the cooked-carrot results are so darned good. (Hell hath frozen over.) Indeed, I’ve made said carrots four times since that fateful recipe attempt, playing with proportions and ingredients to get the flavors just right.
Easy Sautéed Carrots with Onions and Rosemary
You probably have all the ingredients for this recipe at home right now, especially since you can use dried rosemary in place of fresh in a pinch. The only trick is to julienne the onion, which sounds really intimidating, but isn’t. Check out the step-by-step instructions at FreeCulinarySchool.com: How to Julienne an Onion. (Would that I had chef Jacob’s knife skills!) Be sure to use a sharp, non-serrated knife.
The resulting thin strips of onion cook evenly and quickly. If learning to julienne is too much trouble for a weeknight, though, just cut the onion in half lengthwise and slice it into thin (⅛“) rings. (Well, half-rings.) The onions won’t cook quite as evenly, but hey, we’re home cooks here.
Adapted from the second step only of Kay Chun’s recipe, “Pappardelle with Beef and Mushroom Ragu.”
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ½ large onion, julienned or cut into half-rings ⅛" wide
- 3 medium carrots, cut into chubby matchsticks
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- ¾ tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or ¼ tsp crushed dried rosemary)
- scant ¼ tsp salt
- 3-4 grinds of fresh black pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan on medium-high heat until shimmery. Wiggle the pan a bit so that oil coats the entire bottom.
- Add the onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are slightly translucent but still opaque enough to hold their shape, and carrots are "al dente." (Not crisp, but still firm to the bite!)
- Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary if you have them.
-sage (¾ tsp chopped fresh or ¼ tsp crushed dried), or
-a pinch of nutmeg, or
-1 tsp lemon zest, 2 tsp fresh parsley (add both in the last minute of cooking), and then season to taste with lemon juice