OK, first let me confess that I am not one of those follow-the-recipe-to-the-letter type cooks. When I use a recipe, it's usually more of an xxxx recipe "as told to" rendition.
Nonetheless, I made Marcella's braised carrots as written when a friend who was planning the meal took an unexpected turn of the ankle and needed to be icing and elevating rather than chopping and stirring. And I followed the recipe exactly. The results were, as promised, fabulous. But they were a bit too picky for me... the bit about adding water 1/4 cup by 1/4 cup seemed over the top. (By the way, am I a heretic to say that I found baby (not those shaved abominations you get pre-bagged at the grocery store, but real baby carrots from the farmer's market) lost in this dish? Thicker carrots actually work better, in my opinion.)
So next time I decided to apply her technique (more or less) in the oven. I cut the (washed but unpeeled) carrots a bit rougher than she specified, but I did pour enough water to reach 1/4 inch (or maybe just a touch more) in the pan, and reduced the butter to 1 T. Fired up the oven to 450 and popped in the pan. For the first half hour or so I thought I'd made a very bad mistake. The carrots looked like they weren't cooking, and if they were cooking they seemed to have more of a boiled than braised or roasted demeanor. I shook the pan and went back to the rest of dinner. 45 minutes later things were looking a little more promising, but none of that delicious browning or wrinkling. Another shake and I turned the oven light off so I wouldn't be reminded of another experiment gone wrong so wrong.
15 to 20 minutes later, the water was gone, the carrots were glistening, crinkled and unbelievably good. (If the water's gone but the carrots aren't brown enough, just turn off the oven and keep an eye on them--they'll keep cooking and if you don't watch, they can cook past perfect. This I know.) I've made them twice since to rave reviews. This is my new (and now only) way to do these carrots.
Does anyone else have shortcuts or changes you've made to Marcella's recipes that have since become the way you now do things? Alternatively, do you have cautionary tales for those of us who deviate? Recipes by Marcella that just go wrong when you adapt or simplify?
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