Roasting can cause carrots to shrivel and dry out by the time the browning process is complete. Cutting the carrots into fairly thick ½-inch batons is the first step to ensuring a good result, but it’s not sufficient.
It turns out that carrots contain more pectin than any other vegetable. Gently cooking the carrots allows the pectin to convert to a heat-stable form that reinforces the cell structure, locking in moisture and preventing withering. We’ve found the same thing when precooking apples for a pie—a stint in a covered pot yields apples that hold their shape better in a pie than raw apples.
We weren’t about to cook the carrots in a covered pot before roasting—that’s too much work for a simple recipe. But we found a simple solution: Covering the baking sheet with foil trapped steam and gently cooked the carrots, allowing the pectin to become more stable. After 15 minutes, we simply removed the foil and let the carrots roast until nicely browned.
Tossing the carrots with a little melted butter before they go into the oven improves browning.
This basic technique can be varied by adding another vegetable to the pan. Parsnips cut into ½-inch batons, halved shallots, or fennel cut into ½-inch pieces can be cooked along with the carrots. Another option is to add seasonings. Sturdy herbs like rosemary and thyme can be tossed with the carrots before they go into the oven, while delicate herbs (such as parsley), toasted nuts, or lemon juice can be tossed with roasted carrots just before serving.
Total Cooking Time: 60
Preparation Time: 15
Active Cooking Time: 15
Make Ahead: Serve immediately
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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