Let's be real here for a second: carrots aren't particularly drool-worthy. No one really craves a carrot. You don't daydream about the possibility of eating them with dinner. And you certainly don't think to yourself, "I'll be the most popular person at the potluck if I bring the carrots!" But I'm about to change that (or at least hear me out).
The amount of attention I give to carrots is slim. I dip raw ones in hummus, add shredded ones to pitas, and…that's the extent of it. At least it was, until I saw this recipe in River Cottage Veg. I was looking for a seasonal vegetable side dish for Rosh Hashanah dinner, and when I saw the way these carrots were glistening in the photo, they became my dinner-party mission. I would make carrots, everyone (including me!) would love them, and they wouldn't be sitting all sad and rejected like the overly sweet, mushy carrot side dishes I've had over the years.
Well, it worked! They are soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, and perfectly sweet while still functioning as a savory side. The tart gremolata counters the caramelization on the carrots for the perfect balance of flavors. Don't worry if the gremolata on its own tastes bitter—once it's on the carrots, the flavors meld together beautifully.
In my opinion, this is the perfect dish for a dinner party. The prep time is very minimal (10 minutes max), and you can set the table and prepare the rest of the food while these roast in the oven. During the second round of cooking, check on them occasionally, and pull them out when they've reached your desired texture.
These photos don't show the full recipe of carrots—those were eaten before I could take photos! I made a second batch with just one bunch of carrots to feature on the blog, so you'll have double this amount. If you have extra oil/butter at the bottom of your roasting pan, drizzle this over the carrots before adding the gremolata.
Caramelized Carrots with Parsley and Lemon Zest
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches fresh young carrots, peeled, and larger ones halved lengthways
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- small bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
- zest of 1 small lemon (plus juice, if desired)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the oil and butter to a roasting dish and place in the oven until the butter melts. Add the peeled and trimmed carrots to the roasting dish, toss until coated, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with foil and roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, about 30-40 minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven, remove the foil, and flip the carrots. Return to the oven and roast uncovered until they start to brown and caramelize, 20-30 minutes.
While the carrots are in the oven, make the gremolata. Roughly chop the garlic, add the parsley and finely grated lemon zest to the cutting board, and chop all three together until very fine and well mixed. This will require a large, sharp knife and a few minutes of chopping!
When the carrots are ready, remove them from the oven and toss them with the desired amount of gremolata. If you want, squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top of the carrots.
Recipe adapted from River Cottage Veg.