Think you're tired of cooked carrots? Before you give up on them, try braised or glazed carrots. You might be surprised when you taste a vegetable side dish that outshines the rest of the meal.
Braising is a cooking technique where you cook food by partially immersing it in liquid. Depending on the liquid you use, you'll get different results. And with different herbs and spices, you have an almost infinite number of possibilities.
Glazed carrots are just braised carrots, but with the cooking liquid reduced to a delicious glaze.
Braising is an especially nice way to cook carrots – sweet liquids add to the carrots' natural sweetness, and savory liquids make a nice contrast.
In this article, I'll talk about how to make braised and glazed carrots. First, I'll go over preparing the carrots, seasonings and cooking liquids. Then, I'll talk about how to braise the carrots. Finally, I'll show how to turn the cooking liquid into a yummy glaze.
Here we go!
When you're cooking vegetables, the first step is always to prepare the vegetables. But when you're making braised or glazed carrots, you also need to gather your seasonings and your cooking liquid.
The first thing you need to do is wash the carrots. No matter where you get them from, there might be dirt, chemicals, or micro-organisms left on them, and a bit of lukewarm water will help get that off. Just scrub them gently.
You can also peel the carrots if you like. Sometimes it's better not to, though, since carrots have a lot of flavor and nutrients right up near the surface – you don't want to peel that away! But if you feel your carrots need a good peel, go for it.
The last step is to cut up the carrots. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Smaller pieces cook faster.
If you don't have a lot of time, small, diagonal slices will cook very quickly.
If you prefer bigger pieces, you can do that too. They'll cook just as well and won't burn or anything, but it'll take longer. Whole carrots can take really long, unless they're baby carrots, so it's best to cut them up a little!
Smaller pieces have more surface area. That means that they'll caramelize more if you decide to sear them, and they'll absorb more flavors from the sauce or glaze.
Once the carrots are cut up and ready, you can look at seasonings.
The seasonings are what'll make your braised and glazed carrots really stand out. With just a few herbs and spices, you can turn carrots into something really amazing.
There are a few different ways to use seasonings.
Don't be afraid to be creative with your seasonings. The worst that can happen is you have a dish you don't love... but you may also discover something amazing!
One of the great thing about braised carrots is the different blend of flavors you can end up with. Seasonings give some variety, but the cooking liquid you pick also makes a huge difference. And it's the base for your sauce or glaze, so it really influences the taste of your glazed carrots.
Some liquids that go especially nicely with carrots are orange juice, vegetable or chicken stock, white wine or a bit of melted honey. And you can combine them, or add a bit of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, lemon juice or chili sauce for a little extra kick.
Again, never be afraid to try out different things. For example, there are lots of different fruit juices you can try out, and you may end up with a really nice surprise if you experiment. Orange juice will give you wonderful orange carrots, and a delicious blend of flavors.
Once you've gathered and prepared your ingredients, you're ready to start cooking and make braised carrots.
Here's how you do it.
Heat a bit of butter in a pan over medium high heat.
You can also use oil or a combination of oil and butter to prevent burning, but butter gives a nicer flavor in a sauce.
Try to use a pan that can fit all your carrots in a single layer. Braised carrots are much tastier if more of the carrots are immersed in the sauce!
Add the carrots and seasonings you want to sauté to the pan, and sauté them until they're browned to your liking.
You don't have to sear the vegetables at all. If you don't like the caramelized flavor, then don't worry about this step!
The goal is to just get the surface to cook, not the inside. You want the carrots to finish cooking in the liquid so that they get more flavorful.
Add the cooking liquid and other seasonings, and bring it to a boil.
The liquid should reach about halfway up the carrots. Any more and you'll have too much to make a nice, concentrated sauce for your glazed carrots.
Place a fitted lid over the pan. You want the steam to stay trapped so that it can help cook the carrots. Lower the temperature a bit so that you have a light simmer.
Cook the carrots until they're as tender as you like them, then remove them from the liquid. I find a slotted spoon is the best tool!
Check on the carrots every so often as they cook. If the liquid gets too low, you can add a bit more. Make sure the pan doesn't go dry!
Set the carrots aside. We'll go over making the sauce or glaze in the next section.
And now you have some braised carrots! Read on to find out how to turn them into delicious glazed carrots.
Braised carrots are pretty delicious all on their own. They get really yummy and flavorful from the cooking liquid and seasonings. But you can make them even more outstanding with a sauce. Or, you can even turn that sauce into a glaze and make amazing glazed carrots.
After removing the carrots, you'll find you have some cooking liquid left. That'll be the base for your sauce. It's full of great flavors, and any nutrients the carrots might have lost ended up in the liquid. It's perfect!
Here's what you do.
Taste the cooking liquid. If you find it needs a little extra something, go ahead and add it.
You can try a bit of vinegar or soy sauce, some fruit juice, spices, anything you like. Or don't add anything at all.
Go easy on the seasonings. As the sauce reduces, the flavors will get more intense, so it's best to start with something that's not too strong tasting.
Bring the liquid to a boil. Let it boil down until it starts to thicken.
If your sauce has lots of gelatin (from a good chicken stock), or lots of sugar (from honey or just sugar added to it), the sauce should thicken on its own.
If the sauce doesn't thicken, mix about a teaspoon of flour or cornstarch with a bit of water. Mix it really really well, and then add it to the sauce. Stir it in well. As the sauce boils it'll thicken.
You can use more or less flour as needed, but remember, it's better to start with less and add more, because once it's in the sauce, you can't take it back out!
If your cooking liquid has enough sugar in it, it'll turn into a glaze. Otherwise it'll be more of a sauce. Either way, it'll be delicious!
Spoon the sauce over the carrots, or place the carrots back in the sauce or glaze, toss to get them coated, and simmer them a few minutes.
Serve, and enjoy!
And that's how to make braised carrots, and take it one step further to make glazed carrots. You'll love it!