When we were on our trip through Northern California last autumn we spent a day or two at Clara’s house in the mountain. Clara has a fully stocked kitchen, and a grown-up size barbecue, and a deck big enough for a table and chairs, and a propane heater, so one could argue that it was just skill and setting that made the dinner so good. Months later, in my adequate kitchen, on my scratched dining room table, in my messy, cold house I was able to achieve the same results. Shocking! The one constant was the recipe, which came out of an actual book, and which I am so excited about sharing.
I don’t know the name of the book or I would credit it; Clara sent a photocopy of the page to me. It was page 68, for the record, and “The Best Recipe” is at the top of the page. The recipe variations run to page 69, so she sent me both pages, and at the top of the other page it says “Vegetables.” It is probably this book; in fact, I am almost positive that it is. Someday Clara herself will have to stop working for money, manipulating science to improve humanity, and traveling the world to read the blog and confirm it. Until that happens, I’ll copy it out for you. These are some seriously good carrots. I regret not having the presence of mind to take a bad picture of the pan (I always take bad pictures of food) to post here, and I can’t find anything online that looks remotely like it, but I was trying to time dinner right. (I mostly did–the salmon cooked longer than I expected.) You’ll just have to use your imagination.
1. Cut a pound of carrots on the diagonal, in slices about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Throw 2 Tbsp of butter, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp orange zest in a 10-inch saucepan with the sliced carrots. (I used salted butter, so I cut the salt to a 1/4 tsp and didn’t notice a lack.)
ASIDE: Did you know you could buy orange zest in a jar? I had no idea. The hassle of making orange zest has kept me from starting or preparing properly many different dishes over the years. Clara in her infinite wisdom (and without any overt signs of disdain) showed me the jar. It is awesome.
3. Heat everything up over medium-high until the liquid starts to boil. You won’t think that there is nearly enough liquid to boil, but it will and it will be noticeable.
4. Cover the pan and let it cook for three minutes.
5. Uncover the pan and let the liquid evaporate. You won’t think there could possibly be any liquid in the pan after seeing what a paltry amount is boiling at first, but of course the carrots release water, too, and you’ll feel a little silly for worrying about it.
6. After the liquid evaporates, toss in a 1/4 cup of shelled, roasted pistachio nuts. Or more. (No more than 1/2 cup, I think.)
7. Let the whole pan sautee for another minute or two.
These carrots are beautiful, first. The orange is very bright and the pistachio nuts provide a contrast. Plus a sliced carrot has that yellow ring inside. I served them with stuffed salmon, so they weren’t shown off to the absolute best advantage (the salmon already pink and the stuffing cheddar cheesy yellow), but I did have them on my white dishes before the salmon hit the plate and they were gorgeous. The carrots also cook up to the perfect texture. They were not chewy or mushy. I spent way more time prepping the ingredients than cooking, but mostly because I scraped the carrots with a peeler first. I suppose that’s technically an option. I peeled the pistachios by hand, but that’s no big deal. I decided at the last minute to grab the ingredients when I was at the store, so I was guessing about how many pistachios to get and I bought way too many. I’ll have to find something else to use them in, if Husband doesn’t end up eating them all as a snack.
Neither Fella nor Filly wanted their carrots, but they have been ornery about dinner lately. They ate their salmon, which surprised me (I don’t really like salmon myself), but not that much of the salmon stuffing. I think deep down inside where they don’t even know it they liked it but felt there would be too much to lose by admitting it. They like carrots, sugar, butter, nuts, orange juice, and salt independently, and this combination was much, much more than the sum of its parts. I’m sure there’s an eloquent allegory about the human experience buried in there for someone to write, but I’ll content myself with having a good side dish I can make in the future from memory. And with having a friend with good taste in recipes.
Thank you, Clara.