I have always loved carrots. As a baby I turned orange from eating too much carrot baby food. As I grew older my love of carrots only grew. I always liked them best raw, and if they still had the green tops on all the better. That way I could do an impression of my favorite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny.
I knew I wanted to make a carrot risotto, but I often find the flavor in carrot risottos to be flat. In order to create layers and depth of flavor I decided to prepare the carrots in four different ways, to get all the earthy, sweet notes that you can get from various techniques. So, it involves a bit of preparation and dirtying a few pans, but I promise it’s worth it. And honestly, I didn’t find that it took too much longer than usual for risotto.
I roasted sliced carrots in the oven (roasted vegetables are my favorite) and caramelized them in butter on the stove top. Raw shredded carrots are sauteed with onions before the risotto is added, and carrot puree is added right after. The whole thing is topped off with decadent dollops of mascarpone and umami-rich Parmesan. I thought very seriously about using goat cheese in place of the mascarpone for a brighter, tangier flavor, but didn’t want to overpower the subtle carrot taste. I do think it would be excellent though.
Some of the roasted and caramelized carrots got a little more crispy and browned than the rest, and they became the perfect garnish. Also, don’t leave out the parsley. As with any good garnish, it really does add to the flavor of the dish.
Risotto with Carrots Four Ways
Yield: 4 Servings
7 carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of sugar
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Caramelize the carrots: Slice 2 of the carrots into thin, even coins. Melt the butter in a pan, add the carrots, and stir to coat. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring infrequently, until lightly browned and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Set aside any slightly overdone pieces for garnish.
Roast the carrots: Preheat the oven to 375F. Slice 2 of the carrots into thin, even coins. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Roast until lightly brown, shaking or turning pan halfway through. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Set aside any crispy bits of carrots for garnish.
Puree the carrots: Roughly chop 2 of the carrots and cook in boiling water until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the water. Transfer the carrots to a food processor or blender and pulse. Add a tablespoon of the reserved cooking water at a time and blend until the texture is smooth and not too thick. You should have about 1 cup of puree. Set aside.
Shred 1 carrot using the large side of a box grater. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pan (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Add the shredded carrots, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent and tender.
Add the risotto and stir to coat. Mix in the carrot puree. Add about 1 cup of warm broth and stir. Wait until the broth has mostly absorbed before adding more. Continue adding about 1/2 cup of broth each time it absorbs, stirring frequently. You may end up using more or less than 6 cups of broth, but for me that was perfect. The risotto should be tender but firm, moist but not soupy.
Add the roasted and caramelized carrots (leaving some for garnish). Stir in the mascarpone and Parmesan. To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and garnish with Parmesan, chopped parsley, and roasted and caramelized carrots.
Linked up at the Back to Basics Rice Recipe Link-Up over at The Local Cook