Growing up I was never a fan of carrots. In fact, I abhorred these vegetables so much that my mother stopped pushing me to eat them because she couldn't stand the gagging sounds I made whenever I tried to force a carrot down. I first came around to carrots in liquid form. Carrot juice quickly gave way to delicious carrot ginger soup. And now I'm finally entering new territory eating carrots in their original solid, though cooked, form.
For my birthday this year, Mike took me out to dinner at a restaurant that I am easily convinced is one of Baltimore's very best, The Dogwood. Located in the trendy Hampden neighborhood, The Dogwood specializes in local, seasonal, simple meals and they're a social enterprise of sorts, providing a culinary training program to interested persons hoping to better their life situation. This is the sort of restaurant that I can support all around. And their food is absolutely delicious too! I ordered a cherry-duck dish that came with carrots amongst a few other veggies. I anticipated sharing the carrots with Mike, but I ended up eating the majority of them myself. Soft but not mushy, sweet and flavorful without being too carroty, these were the most unimaginably delicious carrots I had ever tasted. I wasn't sure exactly how they had been prepared, but when I saw a recipe for Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots in Real Simple magazine a few months later, I knew I had to give it a try in the hopes of recreating a side dish even half as delicious as the one I enjoyed at The Dogwood.
I've copy and pasted Real Simple's recipe below, but I did make a few alterations of my own. I skipped on the pecans, primarily because I didn't have any on hand, and used baby carrots instead of their larger counterparts, once again because that was what I had on hand. They were still super delicious and this cut down on my cooking time a bit too. Though they weren't an exact replica of The Dogwood's now infamous carrots, they were as close as I think I can ever get in my own kitchen. I thought them just a little too carroty for my taste, but I imagine if I had cooked them just a bit longer, that would have been all it took to solve this problem. Mike told me they were "to-die-for," though I can't be sure if this was simply because they were that good or if this was more a product of his enthusiasm for something new and exciting for dinner. Nonetheless, this recipe provides an unquestionably innovative and tasty way to try your carrots that even I, a long-time-carrot-hater, would recommend. And who doesn't love a little sugar with their veggies?
Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots With Rosemary and Pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
3 pounds carrots—peeled, cut into 2-inch lengths, and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. Heat oven to 375° F. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing once, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the carrots, brown sugar, butter, rosemary, cayenne, ½ cup water, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the carrots begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover the saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the carrots are tender and the liquid has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes more.
3. Discard the rosemary and toss the carrots with the lemon juice and pecans.
The pecans can be toasted up to 2 days in advance; keep at room temperature, covered. The carrots can be peeled, cut, and combined with the butter, rosemary, cayenne, salt, and pepper up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered, then transfer to a large saucepan, add the water and sugar, and proceed with the recipe.