We recently came across this article in the NYTimes and find it very amusing that vegetables can quickly become popular or passé.
If farms were teen movies: carrots would be Andy Walsh. The totally amazing, but often overlooked character that proves him/herself in the end as being totally awesome and desirable. (maybe we’re over thinking this, but hey, go with it!)
In many households carrots are considered a supper time staple: appreciated but never glamorized. That is, until now.
These sweet, hearty, brightly colored roots are totally having their moment, so let’s all sit back and take in the alphabet of nutrients that is, the carrot.
Carrots Enjoy a Spike in Popularity
THE great French chef Paul Bocuse, dismissing what he saw as young chefs’ excessive efforts to be creative, once told me there were already “300 ways to cook carrots, so we don’t need more.”
If he looked around today, he might think again, or at least increase his tally by a few hundred. At the Boston restaurant Clio, Ken Oringer is serving an entree of heirloom carrots cooked in goat butter and topped with hay that is then ignited. At Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica, Calif., Jeff Mahin salt-roasts carrots, as one might a fish, and dresses them with a Burgundy-mustard vinaigrette, a dish that customers often order to share along with pizza, as a main course.
Carrots, those little spark plugs in a salad or a stew, have suddenly become an engine driving restaurant menus. Chefs across the country are showcasing handsome, meaty specimens in a rainbow of colors, dressed and garnished without a sliver of meat or fish. Well, maybe a touch of bacon.
“People are feeling more comfortable with having something like carrots in the center of the plate,” said Dan Kluger, the executive chef at ABC Kitchen in New York, where a salad of roasted carrots and avocado has become one of his most popular, and imitated, dishes.
Troy Guard, the chef and owner of TAG in Denver, makes a carrot taco that puts the root vegetable through its paces, with a carrot tortilla and a filling of braised carrots, a salad of raw carrots and cilantro, and guacamole.
“Last year brussels sprouts were really huge,” he said. “Now it’s carrots.”
Why carrots? Chefs point out that vegetables in general are gaining favor as more Americans try to eat healthier. Carrots have the added advantages of being familiar, attractive, versatile and available just about everywhere.
“Everybody likes carrots,” Mr. Guard said. “You can use them cooked or raw, the colors are great and I can get lots of varieties from local farms.”
Roasting, braising, grilling and more extreme forms of culinary invention, typically applied to a pristine slab of hamachi or a rosy duck breast, are now directed at piles of freshly dug carrots.
As good cooks know, “freshly dug” is as important for carrots as “diver” is for sea scallops. Supermarket carrots are fine for the soup pot, but nothing beats local varieties when carrots really count. Cooks prowling in a farmers’ market won’t find many vegetables as eye-catching as bunches of white, yellow, orange, red and purple carrots, from slender minis to knobby standard sizes, with chunky Thumbelinas in between.
Then there is the rich, deep flavor of a fresh carrot, especially this time of year. Carrots, it turns out, have their seasons.
“Summer carrots are not as good as fall carrots,” said Alex Paffenroth, who grows them in Warwick, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley, and sells them in New York City Greenmarkets. “They get sweeter in colder weather.”