I am not sure when my fascination with carrots began but it wasn't as a kid. I really don't think I thought much about carrots until I started growing them in my garden. I think the fact that a good carrot in the middle of winter taste so good and feels so completely nourishing while you are eating it they are hard to pass up. This recipe uses classic technique, yet, is really simple. I find this recipe to be old school Flemish/Belgian and borderline Dutch. The first time I made it years ago I had my doubts about the lettuce addition but they quickly dissolved into bliss. As always the best and freshest produce you can lay you hands on is always going to make the best food. - thirschfeld —thirschfeld
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe relies on classic technique, yet it's by no means conventional. (If you're imagining little hexagonal barrels of carrot, fear not: thirschfeld forgoes such formalities, preferring to highlight the vegetables in their natural state.) He takes whole carrots (with their tops on) and gently simmers them in water laced with plenty of butter, a little vinegar, sugar, salt, bay leaf and thyme; as they cook, the liquid reduces and gently lacquers the carrots. At the very end, you add the lettuce leaves to the pan and let them wilt for a few seconds, letting their crevices absorb the fragrant, buttery glaze. -A&M —The Editors
carrots with tops (you can tell how fresh the carrots are by the tops), not more than 3/4 inch in diameter, peeled and trimmed with 1 inch of top left on
Place everything, except the lettuce, in a 12-inch, heavy bottomed saute pan. Add about 1 cup of cold water to the pan, or just enough to reach an 1/8 inch from the tops of the carrots. (Don't add more than a 1 1/2 cups to start.)
Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. The idea here is to have the water all but evaporate at the same time as the carrots finish cooking, leaving you with a rich and delicious glaze to coat and be poured over the dish. If the water seems to be evaporating before the carrots are close to being done, you can add a little more. At the same time, if the carrots seem to be getting too done, remove them from the pan. Reduce the glaze, and then at the end, add the carrots back to warm them and to cook the lettuce.
The whole idea here is to have a tender carrot that is not mushy, yet not so hard that when you cut it, it shoots across the table. It is timing, and you can always use a toothpick to test the fattest part of the carrot—it should yield with pressure. As the water gets close to being gone, add the lettuce. Let the lettuce wilt and get soft (this will only take about 30 seconds). You want it to be vibrant green but tender like cooked spinach. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Plate, drizzle the glaze over the veggies and serve.