Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cider Braised Carrots


Another busy weekend - lots of cooking, visitors, and wound-up, noisy children. I think I'm feeling my age. Along with feeling under the weather - all the fun is tiring me out. I feel like a staggering, wounded extra in a disaster movie. 

To begin, Saturday was my daughter's fourth birthday party, which meant a house full of high octane kid-energy. The din that these children were able to produce could rival a Who concert. Decibel levels hit red.  The headache did eventually go away, and the little ones certainly enjoyed themselves.

On Sunday, I had dinner guests, dear old dad included. Sometimes the simplest recipes are best for feeding a whack of people. So it was roast chicken, roast potatoes and roast carrots. Almost all cooking was done in the oven - which is terribly convenient. 

The best way to roast a chicken - slide it into a hot oven with little more than salt, pepper and a few onions scattered on the bottom of the roasting tin. Crispy, salty skin and moist flesh will be your reward.

The spuds were par-cooked in boiling water in the morning and set aside. About 40 minutes before serving, I tossed them in a roasting pan with some angrily hot bubbling duck fat along with piney-smelling rosemary and coarsely cracked pepper. The reassuring sound of snapping and popping fat emanating from the oven was a great antidote to a chilly afternoon. They came out crispy and brown on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. Don't forget to season generously while hot.

The carrots, which warranted the only photograph, took a hot bath in hard apple cider with fennel seeds, star anise and garlic. Oven set to 375F, I first cooked them covered for about 25 minutes, then removed the lid for another ten so that the cider would reduce and get syrupy. As a side dish, I think it was pretty sensational. Why annotate the recipe? Go ahead and cook it by instinct, the way I did. It's really quite liberating. 

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