Cooking the Book: Braised Carrots

Expletive carrot, I expletive love you

The first cookbook book club meeting was last month, hosted by creator Seattle Tall Poppy, and the book chosen was Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. A friend asked me what I enjoyed learning the most and least in this experience, and they are as follows:

1) Most: I learned how to make carrots, or as I now call them, The Carrots of Badassery.

2) Least: I learned that I say eye-talian as a joke, like way too much.

I’ve never considered myself a very good chef. I’m more of a home cook who has a good palate, and sometimes I get lucky. I have no training besides my mother (my second-favorite chef) and my little brother (first place); I just have common sense, a curious mind, fairly good instincts, and the internet. When in doubt, the internet is my bestest friend, as well as frantic texts to better cooks like What the fuck did I do?! peppered with frowny anger emoticons. >:(

The Carrots of Badassery

But Marcella Hazan makes beautiful Italian cooking very simple. That’s why her books — this one in particular — are a staple for most of the cooks I admire. All of the dishes people brought to the potluck were things I could have done on a lazy afternoon. ‘But carrots?’ you’re thinking. ‘CARROTS?!’ Judge all you want, veggie hater; these braised, buttery, caramelized orange discs of cheesy goodness were my favorite. thing. ever.

I chose this dish because I’m not a huge fan of raw or cooked carrots. I used to eat the small ones as a kid with too much salt on them before realizing I could just use one carrot as a vehicle for salt, and then that carrot became a sodium utensil more than anything  else. 

I can do carrot soups, carrot juice, thinly-sliced carrot on salads, carrot chunks in my chicken pot pies, and the occasional carrot cake. But a side dish of braised carrots really isn’t my thing, just like a breakfast bowl of cucumber foam and a five-mile run on a Sunday really isn’t my thing.

Two hours of braising. TWO. The recipe said more like 90 minutes, but I was so afraid to burn them I never turned the stove above medium-low. But you know I always wing this shit, so get the recipe here while keeping an eye on your carrots for timing. It can go south pretty quick, so stay close to the kitchen. Marvel at the surprising smell that fills your entire home for hours — sweet, buttery, light, and delicious. When I left briefly to take the garbage out, a neighbor passing by said “What is that amazing smell?” I told him carrots. He didn’t believe me.

Nit-Picking Food Snobby Item #213: Use freshly-grated Parmesan to finish and to garnish. None of that ‘powdery crap in a can’ or ‘pre-shredded for your convenience in a container!’ Your carrots will thank you.

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