Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roasted Carrots with Onion and Thyme

I have always loved carrots.  They are crunchy, versatile, nutritious, and even slightly sweet.  You know I like sweet stuff!  But for some reason, when they are cooked, they lose some of their appeal to me.  In theory, roasted carrots should be great.  Roasting veggies releases their natural sugars and brings out great flavor.  But it can also leave you with dried out, shriveled up, carrot jerky.

So a few days ago, when I found myself needing a veggie to serve with dinner and nothing around but carrots, I sought out to make a roasted carrot side dish that was actually as good as it should be.  I found a recipe for roasted carrots in Cook's Illustrated, and I knew I had recipe gold.  

I tried it out, and it was as good as advertised.  I did add an onion, because I love roasted onions, and some thyme for a little extra flavor boost.  Yum!  These were so good we ate them all before I even had time to plate them up for a pretty picture.  Fortunately I snapped one quickly when I took them out of the oven!

What makes these better than most roasted carrots is covering the pan with foil for the first 15 minutes of cooking.  This precooks the carrots and traps their natural moisture.  Then you uncover the carrots and continue to bake for about 30 minutes.  Uncovering them exposes them to the hot oven and allows them the caramelize.  Why didn't I think of that?

Perhaps the best part about this recipe is that it tastes fancy, but is as easy as cutting up a few carrots and onions.  In an ideal world, all carrots would be the same size so you could easily cut them into equal pieces.  But it's not an ideal world, so just do your best!  If you have some fat carrots, and some skinny carrots, just cut the skinny ones in half horizontally, and cut the fat ones in half horizontally, and vertically.  I cut my onion into 8 wedges and tried to keep the layers together when tossing.  If you aren't using an onion, use 1 1/2 pounds of carrots.
Now that your veggies are chopped, toss them with salt, pepper, thyme, and melted butter or margarine.  I used margarine, which shaved off 100 calories, but still gave me a buttery flavor.
Now spread the mixture on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Another bonus--easy cleanup!
Then seal the veggies in another layer of foil.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then remove the foil.
Put 'em back in the oven for another 30 minutes to allow them to brown.  The recipe says to add salt and pepper to taste before serving, but I thought they were perfect just as they were.  Best.  Carrots.  Ever.

Roasted Carrots with Onion and Thyme
1 pound carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise if necessary to create even pieces
1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 Tbsp margarine, melted
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine carrots, onion, margarine, salt, pepper, and thyme; toss to coat.
Transfer mixture to foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer.  Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to cook, stirring twice, until carrots are well browned and tender, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to serving platter, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Nov/Dec 2010

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