I have always liked vegetables. As a kid, my mom could count on me to eat any vegetable that she put on the table without a hassle, except for cooked carrots. I would eat my requisite spoonful but that was it.
Mom was busy. With 3 young children and a fledgling graphic design business there wasn't much creative thought left for meal planning. That is code for the cooked carrots in question were of the frozen variety. Frozen Carrots in Brown Sugar Sauce to be precise. I can still see their orange and white packaging and hear the ominous clank as their frozen mass hit the bottom of her Revere Ware saucepan.
Now you should know, I am not a frozen vegetable snob, but there is just something about frozen carrots that just doesn't translate. They really lose their texture and get sort of mushy and strange. Those early cooked carrot exposures put the whole vegetable off for me.
Slowly I came back around. First there was carrot cake, then raw dipped in Ranch dressing, then carrots in soups and stews. I could eat all those without issue, but I just couldn't get past the whole cooked carrot side dish. Too mushy or too under cooked, smothered in sauce, or strangely seasoned. Carrots were the bitter disappointment of the vegetable world.
When my girls were younger I came across a Barefoot Contessa recipe for roasted carrots. Simply prepared, just carrots, olive oil, salt and black pepper. They weren't too bad. The kids ate them, Andy liked them and we had them a few times more and then they dropped off the radar. Then last week at the market I found gorgeous bunches of carrots. I grabbed one and threw it in my basket, I wasn't sure what I'd do with it but they were so pretty and spring like I couldn't resist.
I started off with the Barefoot Contessa recipe again and roasted the carrots until they started going golden brown in spots. Then I drizzled on a bit of honey gave them a stir and let them roast a bit longer. When they came out of the oven I gave them a quick sprinkle with some sea salt that was mixed with Bergamot orange peel.
They were great.
I've made them 3 times since.
I think I've been converted.
This really isn't a recipe, I'll just tell you how I did it and you can follow along at home if you like.
Preheat the oven to 375. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scrub and peel carrots, whatever amount floats your boat, and then cut them into 2 inch pieces. Give the carrots a good slosh of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and then spread them out on the baking sheet. Roast the carrots for 30 minutes stirring once halfway through. After 30 minutes drizzle the carrots with a few tablespoons of honey and stir well. Roast them again for another 5-10 minutes. Pull them out and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. The carrots I used were thick and chunky, if yours are thinner you'll probably want to cook them for a lesser amount of time. In the end you want carrots that are a little firm, browned in places and most importantly aren't mushy.
A few weeks back I played around with some flavored sea salts. I used one for this recipe, the fragrant Bergamot orange really played well with the carrots. It's very easy and they make nice gifts. You can find the how to on Heidi Swanson's lovely blog 101 Cookbooks.