I cannot express what a fan of Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen I am. They appeal to both halves of my brain, I think. I absolutely love the way they intellectually pick apart each recipe logically and then reconstruct it with the passion of true food artists. I cannot recommend highly enough "The New Best Recipe" Cookbook as a general cookbook either. I replaced my old Better Homes & Gardens general cookbook (wedding gift) that was literally falling apart with the NBR from Cook's Illustrated and now I keep wondering why I didn't break open my wallet years ago. I enjoy reading it just for the sake of reading all the comparisons and background on their recipe testing and there hasn't been a recipe I've used so far that I haven't said "Wow, that really IS the best."
I had a wild craving for glazed carrots the other day which surprised me because as a child I loved my mother's glazed carrots but when I made them years later as an adult they seemed like squishy orange yuck drowned in maple syrup. Don't get me wrong. My mom was a fantastic cook. It's just that everyone used to make glazed carrots basically the same way: cook the carrots and add butter and brown sugar. Fini.
Not good enough.
Along came Cook's Illustrated to the rescue. Their search for the perfect recipe included:
"Chicken broth as a cooking liquid lent the carrots savory backbone and a full, round flavor, whearas water left them hollow and wine turned them sour and astringent. We tried swapping the sugar for more compelling sweeteners but found brown sugar too muddy-flavored, maple syrup too assertive, and honey too floral... We moved on to finessing the glaze..."
Yes, they did. The cookbook contains the original, straightforward "Glazed Carrots" recipe but I went a leap forward to one of their two variations on that theme and made the "Glazed carrots with Bacon and Pecans" (which does have brown sugar in it, by the way, they found it to work best with the bacon and nuts) substituting walnuts for pecans just because I felt like it.
They are absolutely right. This recipe has lots of savory backbone, full round flavor, and just enough sweet to make your mouth water and keep your fork digging in for more. This recipe will definitely be on my hit list parade of veggies.
Also seasoned with thyme, this recipe is my addition to Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen's wonderful Weekend Herb Blogging event, this week hosted by Ed of Tomato. Check out his blog and his round up later in the week.
Glazed Carrots with Bacon and Pecans
from The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated
3 slices bacon, crumbled
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tsps juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper to taste
1. Cook the bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
2. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from the pan. Add the pecans and cook until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plate with bacon.
3. Add the carrots, salt, 1 Tsp of the brown sugar, the broth, and thyme to the skillet. Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are almost tender when poked with the tip of a paring knife, about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to high, and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 Tbsp, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add the butter and remaining 2 Tbsps of brown sugar to the skillet. Toss the carrots to coat and cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are completely tender, about 3 minutes. Off the heat, add the reserved bacon/pecan mixtue, lemon juice, and black pepper, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.