I have a difficult time getting excited about fall vegetables. After the flashiness of those late September tomatoes has passed, the garden basil has gone brown and the multi-hued peppers have started to wane, what’s left? Squash? Wheeee. Root vegetables? Exciting for about 1 minute. I had a conversation with a Twitter friend recently about how boring roasted root vegetbles can be – uninspired, plain, typically underseasoned and snooze worthy. Roast them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar but then, what’s next? How can you take something simple, hearty and abundant and add some life? Some excitement? Well, I’ll tell you. High heat and simple but delicious flavors: butter, of course, but also maple, that classic flavor of cold weather. And bourbon. Everything is simply better with bourbon. It’s a fact.
We’re at that time of year, furiously planning our holiday menus around that showpiece that dominates all else, the turkey. Side dishes tend to take a secondary role and are often relegated to the traditional standards and family expectations– mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, something green. Oven space is tight as there’s probably ½ hour window once that turkey comes out of the oven to rush around and get everything warmed and on the table at the same time. That’s really the trick – get everything on the table hot and if you can hit halftime, all the better. These are important things one must consider when menu planning such a feast. Timing is everything.
What if you had a simple and delicious vegetable dish that could be prepped completely ahead and tossed into the oven while the turkey rested and carved? Even better, what if it could be made a day ahead and simply rewarmed in that precious sliver of time? And what if it was something cheap, plentiful and available all year? Sounds good, right?
Maple Bourbon Roasted Carrots is your answer. Buy a couple bunches of carrots at the farmers market or even a few bags at the grocery store (I’ve done both, as seen in this photos – the farmers market carrots were better but both were very good), peel, trim and slice in half if large then toss with a boozy spiced melted butter mixture. Roast in the oven for a good half hour at a high heat, stirring once or twice, and you’re done.
There’s a magical thing that happens when the natural sugars of the carrots hit the high heat and sizzle in spiced butter, booze and maple syrup. And it’s delicious. The techique works beautifully with other root vegetables and squash too, elevating what can often be a boring and uninspired dishes into a new realm of possibilities.
To do ahead, roast only halfway through, cool completely and throw in a Ziploc in the fridge overnight. When the turkey comes out, spread out the half cooked carrots on a sheetpan and warm through. They probably won’t need much more than a quick warm up.
As a special bonus extra, these carrots make a delightful soup, simmered with a little chicken stock to make them nice and soft, then pureed with just a touch of cream. Make extra for this very purpose and add something new into that staid and boring holiday rotation of side dishes.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: TWO THUMBS UP. This one has so many things going for it – beyond easy, very delicious, versatile and a crowd pleaser. Oh, and it has booze in it. Always a bonus if only for the reason that you will now have bourbon on hand (if you don’t already, and you really should) to take a much needed shot when the nerves begin to fray. As we all know, successfully surviving Thanksgiving means simply maintaining your sanity any way you can.
On this blog four years ago: Lamb & Ale Stew
On this blog three years ago: Blue Cheese Dressing & a Classic Wedge Salad
On this blog two years ago: Maple Buttermilk Spoonbread with Glazed Pears
On this blog one year ago: Raw Kale and Roasted Squash Salad
Other posts that would make good Thanksgiving side dishes: Corn Pudding, Squash and Onion Tart, Sunchoke Soup, Baked Squash Bread Pudding, Garlic Roasted Potatoes, Escargot Style Roasted Mushrooms, Roasted Asparagus with Stilton Butter and Red Onion Marmalade
MAPLE BOURBON ROASTED CARROTS adapted from this Fine Cooking recipe
2 pounds carrots
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons bourbon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the lowest position.
- Peel and trim the carrots and if large, slice lengthwise. Scatter on a sheetpan in a single layer.
- In a small pot, melt the butter then add the maple syrup, bourbon, salt, cayenne and a few grinds of black pepper, stirring to combine.
- Drizzle the butter mixture over the carrots then give them a good toss to combine. Redistribute if needed to a single layer.
- Roast for 15 minutes, stir, then roast for an additional 15 minutes until tender, golden brown and beginning to caramelize. Serve warm or room temperature.