Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No Fooling: Braised Carrots with Parsley and Crisp Capers

Sometimes it’s difficult to say what draws us to a recipe. Why this one and not that one? Why this time but not last time? I have looked through my Donna Hay magazines dozens of times, and never before has the recipe for Carrots, Parsley and Crisp Caper Salad pulled me in, but this time it did.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not even that big a fan of carrots. Oh I know I should like them—helping you see in the dark and all, and it’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that I don’t adore them. Probably this is from eating way too many canned carrots as a child (“soft carrots” my own children call them, to differentiate them from “crunchy carrots”), and way too many carrot sticks during my various Weight Watchers phases.

So when I crossed paths with Carrots, Parsley and Crisp Caper Salad again, and it caught my eye, I was surprised. “Why yes,” I thought, “I’ll make that.” And immediately another voice in my head said, “Huh? You’ll what?”

“I’m buying the ingredients for that,” voice number one shot back, “and I’m making it.”

Voice number two shrugged.

And so, two bunches of organic carrots later, I was on my way to making Carrots, Parsley and Crisp Caper Salad. The carrots for this do need to be somewhat delicate and slender, which is why I bought the organic ones. The conventionally grown ones were such brutish looking things that I suspected they might be too thick and fibrous for this recipe. Probably the very best ones would be something closer to a “baby” carrot, but those weren’t an option this time.

I wouldn’t really call this a salad, so much as braised carrots with a flavor-enhancing garnish. The original recipe did call for baby spinach leaves, which I skipped. Using the cup of flat leaf parsley that the recipe originally called for would make it more saladish as well, but I ran out of interest in chopping parsley by a quarter of cup, so my version was more Braised Carrots with Parsley and Crisp Capers.

The carrots braise in a mixture of orange juice, stock, and butter. Because there were juice oranges available when I was buying the carrots, I picked up a few. I highly recommend using fresh orange juice in this recipe. It was a delicate, subtle flavor that married nicely with the carrots and cooked down to a gently sweet syrupy glaze.

I’d like to say a word here about the Crisp Capers part of the recipe. That word is YUM. I think I’ve found a new favorite food. It seems so basic—salted capers rinsed off and cooked in a frying pan with a little olive oil, but what a transformation. They become little salty bits of melting crispness. I could eat them plain, no carrots, no parsley, no nothing else. After I’d made them and tasted them, I found myself looking around my completely empty kitchen suspiciously, as though there were others around who might try to sneak a crisp caper. They’d lose a digit if they tried it, I tell you.

This whole recipe was so strange—that I made it in the first place and that I loved it so much in the second. The carrot is not my all time favorite vegetable, I’ve never loved cooked carrots, and I would never have predicted I’d like capers fried up in a little olive oil. But I loved everything about this recipe. Sometimes there’s just no telling.


Braised Carrots with Crisp Capers and Parsley
Adapted from Donna Hay magazine, issue #23
Carrots and parsley serve 4-6, Crisp Capers serve the same unless you become instantly addicted to them as I did, in which case everyone else is out of luck because you’ll eat all the Crisp Capers right out of the frying pan while standing hunched over the stove to ensure that no one sees you eating them and asks to share; you’d have to sever their arm if they reached for one.


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and drained
2 bunches carrots, trimmed and peeled
¾ oz butter, chopped
¼ c fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
Salt and pepper
¼ to ½ cup flat leaf parsley (depending on how quickly you get bored chopping it)

Preheat oven to 475. Heat small frying pan over high heat. Add the oil and capers and cook for 2-3 minutes or until capers are crispy.

Place carrots in baking dish and add butter, juice, stock, salt and pepper. Cook 20 minutes or until carrots are tender and sauce is syrupy. Top carrots with parsley, and remaining capers, if there are any.

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