A fine side dish for roasted or braised meats, these carrots are a snap to make. Just combine baby carrots, milk, butter and seasonings and let them simmer together until the carrots are tender and the milk is fully absorbed. The milk brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots. The whole thing requires no real attention, takes only a few minutes—depending on the carrots—and can be made ahead and reheated whenever you need it. That’s everything I want in a side dish.
Ingredients (serves 4-6 as a side dish)
- 500g (1 lb) carrots, preferably ‘babies’ (see Notes)
- A cupful of milk
- A large nut of butter
- A generous pinch of salt
- A good scraping on nutmeg
- A pinch of caster sugar
- Finely chopped parsley
Trim off the tops and tips of the carrots, wash them meticulously, then—depending on how tough their skins are—either peel or rub their skins. If using larger carrots, slice them into rounds.
Place the carrots in a braiser with the rest of the ingredients. If you are using larger, older carrots, add a pinch of caster sugar as well.
Simmer the carrots over moderate heat (the milk should bubble gently) until the carrots are perfectly tender and the milk has been complete absorbed. The milk will have turned into little flecks, which is perfectly normal. If you like, mix in some finely chopped fresh parsley for color.
NOTES: The choice of carrots is, of course, the key to this dish. If you can find baby carrots at your local farmer’s market, as I did yesterday, you’re in for a treat. Otherwise, look for slender, young carrots, with their tops still on, which are likely to have fine, sweet, delicate and intensely carrot-y taste. These carrots don’t need peeling, just trim the tops and tips and rub them with a towel to remove any filaments and stray grit.
If you’re dealing with standard supermarket carrots—the rather fat kind with thickish skins that come sold in large bags—then trim and peel them, then slice them rather thinly. As these carrots don’t tend to be very sweet, adding a pinch of sugar helps. And actually, this treatment is a good way to bring out the best in these carrots.
A richer alternative recipe calls for thickening the milk with flour and butter before adding the carrots, basically turning the milk into a béchamel sauce, and nice alternative if you want to use your carrots to accompany a simply roasted meat. With this variation, you can even enrich it further by mixing in some grated parmesan or fontina just before serving.