This dish may look and sound simple – and as far as preparation goes, it is. But in terms of flavor, it’s anything but.
The first time I made this, I was in a food rut. I wanted to eat – badly – but nothing sounded remotely appealing. Finally, I realized I was craving one specific ingredient, and nothing else was going to cut it. That ingredient? Butter. I wanted that rich, soft, comforting, fatty, full-bodiedness that comes from butter and butter alone. (Red palm oil does come close, but it’s not quite the same.) In any case, once I figured out that my body wanted butter, I was home free (in terms of getting out of my food rut, that is.)
It’s a little-known fact that my favorite vegetable is the carrot – I absolutely love its versatility, sweetness, color, texture – everything. Plus it’s good for your vision and super easy to digest! So of course I found myself with a pound of carrots on my cutting board and a vegetable peeler in my right hand. I was originally planning to just sauté some carrots in butter and call it a day (in which case there would be no blog post for me to write today), but I happened to walk away from my pan shortly after plopping those carrots in, and I didn’t return until several minutes later when I found them a lovely shade of gold and also realized I’d better deglaze the pan before I had a clean-up nightmare on my hands. So I reached for the red wine.
And the rest is history. For when I popped one in my mouth, I realized these were the caviar of carrots – the quotidian transformed into the extravagant. These sumptuous golden nuggets had the complexity of flavor of a slow-braised pheasant stuffed with white truffles foraged from a secret mountainside somewhere in France (if I told you where, I’d have to kill you); drizzled with a sauce made from the roots of a thousand-year-old redwood and herbs from the aforementioned secret mountainside — simmered together by pure sunlight over a period of many months; and finished with a black sea salt only obtained by scraping a deep-sea creature’s tongue. (Okay, maybe not, but they were pretty damn delicious. And probably more delicious than the salt scraped from a deep-sea creature’s tongue, because that actually sounds fairly revolting.)
When I come out of a food rut, I come back hard. I suddenly wanted to eat everything! Well, everything containing these carrots, at least. I’d serve them with herbed quinoa and balsamic lentils, or white-bean croquettes, or…the possibilities were endless.
Suffice it to say that this a simple dish that packs a big flavor punch. It’s a dish that is so much more than the sum of its ingredients, and I strongly encourage you to try it out and see if you agree! (You will.)
A couple notes about the recipe:
-It’s best to use a good quality salted butter for this recipe; the better the butter, the better the final product. I have made this with good quality unsalted butter with equally good results – just remember to season generously.
-I chose to fold in chives for some color/flavor contrast but these carrots are still incredible without any herbs at all. Feel free to leave them out entirely or sub with a fresh herb of your choice.
-Your carrots should more-or-less fit in a single layer when you put them in the pan so they can caramelize properly; make sure your pan is large enough!
Wine-Braised Carrots with Butter and Chives
- 1 pound carrots, cut into small bite-size chunks (a generous 2 ½ cups carrot chunks)
- 3 tablespoons good quality butter, preferably salted
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (optional)
Melt the butter in a large skillet (the carrots should more or less fit in a single layer) over medium heat. When most of the butter has melted, add the carrots and let them sit, without stirring, for 3-5 minutes, until their undersides have started to brown. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another couple minutes, until the carrots have some nice color; then season with salt, raise the heat to high, and pour in the wine. Cook on high, uncovered, for about 30 seconds; then cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook about 2 minutes more. Fold in the chives and serve immediately.