Here we are on day 2 of this Thanksgiving double-take. As I said I plan to present a week worth of Thanksgiving standards, 2 at a time. One recipe is traditional and comfortable, the other is something you may have never tried before.
People have very set ideas concerning the Thanksgiving meal. There are certain dishes that are simple but show up on our tables year after year. I mean, can you imagine Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes? What would you do with the gravy? But if you are anything like me you want to keep everybody at the table happy by meeting their expectations. But does that mean you have to make all of the standards exactly the same year after year?
That’s why I’m giving two options as you fulfill your culinary obligations. Todays’s requisite Thanksgiving must have is a vegetable. Carrots to be exact. I love carrots, and while they are not a side-dish exclusive to Thanksgiving, they are a perennial favorite. So I say make them special!
People often prepare their veggies in a very â€œafter the fact– sort of way. I can’t tell you how many great dinner parties I have been to where it’s obvious the host spent a lot of time on one dish or one aspect of the meal. A gorgeous rib roast. A four foot cake. A perfect fillet of wild salmon, seared and flavorful on the outside, rare and succulent on the inside.
Or in the case of Thanksgiving a spectacular dry-brined turkey roasted to golden perfection. But the accompanying vegetable was practically ignored. Thrown onto the plate as an after-thought. Poor little guy. He deserves love too! Come on it’s the holidaysâ€“ open your heart up a little, give ’em the respect they deserve.
In my house the traditional way to make carrots at Thanksgiving is glazed. My mother was an expert at this method. It seems such a simple preparation because it has very few ingredients. But the truth is there are no shortcuts to getting this just right. You cannot simply candy– them in a saute pan with butter and sugar. I have have even seen it done with orange juice, but I think that’s overkill.
But worse than candied or overkilled carrots, some people simply toss the carrots into boiling water and hope for the best. Imagine all that flavor you are pouring down the drain once you strain those poor carrots. It should be a crime! In fact I’m writing a letter to the Mayor as soon as I’m finished here.
That’s because perfectly glazed carrots are a marvel to behold. Beautiful. Shiny. Colorful. They take well to many flavors, but don’t need them to be incredible. Glazing is such a tremendous technique. It’s a wonder more people don’t practice this method. But please if you use sugar or anything sweet, use a light touch, carrots are sweet enough.
- 2 c round french carrots, washed but unpeeled
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 T sugar
- 1 pn salt
- good sea salt
- 2 sprigs thyme
- chopped chives
Place the carrots into a sloped sided pan large enough to just hold the carrots in a single layer. Use multiple pans if necessary.
Add enough cold water to not quite cover the carrots. Carrots cook quicker than some other root veggies so a little less water is better here. Add the butter, sugar, thyme, peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a very low boil then adjust the heat to achieve a gentle simmer.
Simmer quietly for 15 or 20 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced by half and begins to thicken test them for done. They should be beginning to get tender somewhat, but not finished cooking.
Begin rolling the veggies around in the pan from time to time. As they get nearly cooked and the glaze gets quite thick you will need to roll them more and more. Give them you undivided attention. You want to remove them from the heat at just the right time. . Most of the liquid will have evaporated and you will be left with glossy little gems. They should be cooked through but not mushy.
You may make them several hours ahead, but do not refrigerate them. Serve them at room temperature or re-heated gently in their own glaze. Adjust seasoning, garnish with chopped chives and serve.
And now for that double-take I mentioned!
As much as I love glazed carrots. I have decided to present my carrots this Thanksgiving in a less traditional method. I am making a Savory Carrot and Leek Tart! I say “less traditional” because we are talking in the context of Thanksgiving. Because carrot tarts are actually a very traditional dish in southern Italy, where they are known as Tortine alle Carote. There the carrots might be paired with any number of partners, including cauliflower. But I am am choosing leeks, Tortine alle Carote e Porri. I based this recipe on one I found in La Cucina Italiano magazine. I chose it because I like the idea of using pureed carrots and sliced carrots. I think it makes for an unusual presentation, both elegant and rustic.
- 1 c all-purpose flour
- 1/4 t kosher salt
- 4 T very cold butter, cut into 1/2‑inch dice
- 2 T slivered almonds
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 T ice cold water
- 2 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped, washed and dried
- 1 T fresh thyme leaves
- 1 T fresh carrot tops (substitute parsley), chopped
- 1 lb carrots, sliced into 1/4‑inch thick rounds (4 cups)
- 1 T fresh majoram leaves
- 2 T olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 unsalted butter, plus more for tart pan
- 1 1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 t white pepper
- 2 T fine, dried bread crumbs
DOUGH: In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour salt and almonds. Pulse several times to grind the almonds well. Add the butter water and egg yolks; pulsing several more times until a course meal texture is achieved that hold together when press between your thumb and fingers. Dump the mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, wrap well and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
FILLING: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks and a generous pinch of salt.; cook, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to color. About 6 minutes. In a large sauce pan combine carrots, 3/4 cup water, thyme leaves, chopped carrot tops, and marjoram, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the mixture over high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce the pan to a simmer. Cook until carrots are cooked through and most of the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the tart pan.
Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 4″ x 3.5″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Coat the pan with enough bread crumbs to cover the bottom and all 4 sides. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1/8‑inch thick. Using the bottom of the tart pan as your guide, cut out an appropriate sized rectangle to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan. You will have extra dough. Move the tart pan the he refrigerator while you finish the filling. You will have extra dough.
Remove 66 whole, uniformaly sized carrot slices and set them aside. In a blender or food processor puree the remaining carrots with the pan liquid. Add the reserved leeks to the blender or food processor and pusle 5 or 6 times, do not completely puree them. In a large bowl, add the carrot and leek mixture, 1‑cup cheese, 2 eggs, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and the white pepper.
Remove the cold, dough-lined tart pan from the refrigerator. Spread the carrot mixture over the entire surface of the tart pan, filling the pan completely. Smooth the top to level and attractively arrange the reserved carrot slices over the top, 22 slices per row in 3 rows. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.