Glazed carrots are a classic vegetable side dish that employs a trés French technique called glaçage, for which vegetables are cooked at a rapid boil with stock, butter, and a sweetener such as sugar or honey until tender and the liquid has reduced to a glossy emulsified sauce. Agitation from the boiling, along with swirling and stirring the pan that the vegetables are cooking in, provides the mechanical action required to build a stable emulsion for the glaze (just as you would for a silky pan sauce or properly finished pasta). Inspired by Korean sweet soy-glazed potato banchan, this version of glazed carrots pairs Bugs Bunny's vegetable of choice with an assertively seasoned glaze made with gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and burnt honey that strikes the perfect balance between savory, sweet, and spicy.
One recurring problem with glazed carrots (and other root vegetables) is that the dish can easily veer into too-sweet territory, making them more of a pre-dessert than savory side dish. Carrots are already high in natural sugars—in order to survive cold conditions, carrots convert starch to sugar to act as natural form of anti-freeze. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns is well-known for farming "high-Brix" (read: super-sweet) carrots by leaving them in the soil through multiple freezes before harvesting, to push the vegetable's sugar content to the limit. So, it's no surprise that combining a naturally sweet vegetable with an added sweetener like honey or sugar in a glaze can make for an overly saccharine dish.
For these glazed carrots, we combat this problem by first intentionally burning the honey, blooming it in a saucepan until it darkens to a molasses shade of dark brown. This imparts subtle bitterness, balancing the honey's natural sweetness. Gochugaru is then added along with the carrots, minced ginger, and garlic. The floral heat of the Korean pepper flakes and fresh ginger complements and tempers the sweetness of the carrots and honey. Stock, butter, soy sauce, and fish sauce are then added to the mix and brought to a boil.
The carrots get covered and cooked until just tender and the liquid has emulsified. For the final couple of minutes, the carrots are cooked uncovered, to allow the glaze to reduce to a glossy coating. The finishing touch is a dash of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil off-heat, to lend acidity and bolster the toasty, subtle bitterness of the burnt honey. This is a quick-cooking vegetable side that is anything but an afterthought, and fits in just as well with a weeknight meal as with a holiday feast.
Why It Works
- Blooming honey to the point of being slightly burnt imparts pleasant bitterness to balance its natural sweetness.
- Cooking carrots with stock, butter, and honey at a rapid boil with plenty of stirring and swirling provides the mechanical agitation necessary to build a strong emulsion.
- Soy sauce and fish sauce give the dish savory depth, while gochugaru provides floral heat, for an assertive banchan-style side dish that can hold its own with other components of a large meal.
- Yield:Serves 2 to 3 as a large side dish, or 4 to 6 as a banchan
- Active time: 5 minutes
- Total time:15 minutes
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
- 12 ounces (340g) carrots, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch-long by 1/2-inch-thick batons (about 6 small carrots)
- One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 teaspoons; 12g)
- 2 medium garlic cloves (10g), minced
- 2 tablespoons (14g) coarse ground gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
- 1 cup (240ml) homemade chicken or vegetable stock, or store-bought low-sodium stock, plus extra as needed
- 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) toasted sesame oil
- Thinly sliced chives, scallions, or garlic chives, for garnish
In a 3-quart saucier or saucepan, add honey and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until honey darkens and takes on the color of molasses, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add carrots, ginger, garlic, and gochugaru, season lightly with salt, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add stock, butter, soy sauce, and fish sauce, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Cover saucepan with lid or round of parchment paper, and adjust heat as necessary to maintain rapid boil. Cook, stirring and swirling saucepan occasionally, until carrots are tender and give very little resistance when poked with a cake tester or paring knife, 7 to 9 minutes. If liquid drops to below 1/2-inch during cooking, top up with additional stock or water.
Remove lid and continue to cook carrots at a rapid simmer, stirring and swirling constantly, until sauce is reduced to a syrupy glaze, about 1 minute. If at any point the glaze over-reduces and the emulsion breaks (a visual indicator of this is fat separating and making the liquid look greasy), add water or stock, 1 tablespoon (15ml) at a time, stirring and swirling constantly, until emulsion is stabilized once more. Remove from heat, stir in rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, and season with salt to taste. Divide between small individual serving dishes, sprinkle with chives or scallions, and serve.