If you’re frequenting your Farmers’ Market this spring, you have probably seen the amazing bundles of carrots cropping up everywhere. Some are knobbly and stubby and round, like little turnips, some are almost wispy-thin and well-whiskered. The ones that drew me, and made last week’s side dish for our biscuits, were the rainbow bunches: orange and yellow, but also the vibrant, veiny purple that was probably the original color of these funny, beloved roots (orange carrots were reputedly a Dutch development: in the 17th century the color was cultivated to celebrate William of… wait for it… Orange. Harold McGee agrees on the date and location, but he doesn’t mention political motivations).
The treatment I subjected these little bolts of spring to was so good that rather than dawdling through a lengthy bread recipe, I wanted to share these instead. I can’t stop thinking about them (we’re probably having them with dinner again tonight), and since it is the perfect season for it, I can’t really fault us for that.
Carrots sometimes seem too straightforward: sweet and crisp, made only marginally complex by a mild grassiness.
Liberally slicked with a mixture of honey, mustard, and olive oil, then roasted until their skins almost blackened under the heat, ours became intensely savory and yet also caramelized, homely to the eye but stunners on our tongues. Their taut skins, lacquered with crackly coating, retained a barest crunch while the interiors just slid down our teeth like cold butter.
(Admission: I did make bread this week: my first attempt at baguettes. They were okay, but nothing amazing – the interior had a nice spongy crumb but the crust was a bit thicker than I like, with none of the shattering crispness that makes a really good French loaf. They were bumpy in shape and the deep scores I made across their surface didn’t puff the way they do in bakery cases. They were far from shameful, and tasty sliced, toasted and spread with salted butter, but still. So pedestrian. You deserved something more exciting.)
Honey Mustard Roasted Carrots
Serves 1-2 as a side dish
This is almost too simple to be a real recipe, but a few of those are nice to have in your repertoire. Note: cooking time and ingredient quantities may differ depending on the number and thickness of the carrots you are using. Start with these amounts, then adjust as suits your palate and pantry.
2 bunches (12-15 individual) rainbow carrots (though I suspect any carrots would be great). If you are using a Farmers’ Market variety, you won’t even need to peel them. The skin will caramelize beautifully, and any wispy roots clinging on will gain an addictive roasty crunch.
2 TB dijon mustard
2 TB honey
2 TB olive oil
pinch freshly ground black pepper
scant sprinkle of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
To prepare your carrots, remove the greens, scrub them well (if they are dirty), and roll them around on a clean kitchen towel to dry.
In a shallow dish, use the tines of a fork to combine the honey, mustard, and olive oil. If the honey refuses to play nicely, send the mixture through 10-15 seconds in the microwave. Add salt and pepper to taste, though I recommend under-salting just a tad. The flavors intensify so much after roasting that you’ll only need a tiny hit of salt.
Toss the cleaned, dry carrots in the honey mustard mixture, then tumble them onto your baking sheet and spread them out so none are touching. If you have too many carrots for that, at least be sure they are in a single layer. We want as much surface area to be heat blasted as possible.
Place the loaded baking sheet in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, or until carrots are well-caramelized and tender. This is a wide range of time, I know, but everything depends upon the size and thickness of your carrots. Plunge the tines of a fork into your thickest specimen. If you meet with considerable resistance, leave it in the oven for another 10-15 minutes before checking again. If the tines slide in easily, or you get only a bit of push back from the flesh of the carrot, it’s probably ready. Your own preferences also play a role here: roast them until they have the texture you like best.
They will be amazingly hot when they first emerge from the oven, so if they sit for a minute or two before serving, all the better. But once you start tasting, don’t expect them to last long.