I love carrots in all forms: grilled, stir-fried, raw, and juiced. Oil-poaching carrots concentrates their flavor without caramelizing or browning the sugars. Adding a bit of sea salt and raw garlic results in a highly flavorful dish that highlights good carrots and is straightforward to prepare.
I was inspired by a fennel purée recipe that's part of a Bison, Beets, Blueberries, and Burning Cinnamon dish from the Alinea written up in the Alinea Cookbook. In it, fennel bulbs are simmered in butter until tender, and then puréed. Here, I intended to purée the carrots, but found that they were more interesting just poached.
Step 1: Wash, Peel, and Chop the Carrots
Wash, peel, and coarsely chop the carrots. I often weigh the carrots to help me better estimate how much salt and garlic to add. In the images, I'm using around half a kilogram.
Step 2: Heat the Olive Oil and Carrots
Unlike some frying recipes, like Pimientos de Padrón where not much oil is absorbed, the carrots will soak up some oil. So, I like to use exclusively high-quality olive oil. Steve McCulley of Apollo Olive Oil -- my favorite producer -- suggests that olive oil's polyphenols survive up to 320°F. Here's an email from Steve:
When the carrots are cooked, you can filter and reuse the oil. I keep my oil in the refrigerator: in the images, it's still cold, which is why it's an opaque yellow.The polyphenols are still intact at 210 F, In fact polyphenols protect the oil when the heat rises up to around 320 where they may begin to break down. I cook with extra virign olive oil but others think it is waste. I cook with it because I notice a difference in taste and I know polyphenols are still retained. Others do not notice a big difference in taste so choose to cook with a lesser grade oil. Some people cook with a high quality wine and others do not. Like wine you can taste the oil much better when uncooked and drizzled fresh over cooked food. I, however, still cook with real extra virgin olive oils because other oils are not only not really extra virign they are frequently defective. If budget is a consideration I would consider cooking in a lesser oil and dressing with ApolloOlive Oil.
Step 3: Cook the Carrots
Cook the carrots under oil until they've lost most of their water. The objective is to concentrate the carrots' flavor without exposing them to oxygen or temperatures much above boiling. You can tell when this happens because the carrots' volume will be significantly reduced, and the temperature of the oil will start creeping upwards -- I usually call it done at around 230°F. Depending on your heat-level and amount of carrots, this will take 30-60 minutes.
Step 4: Drain the Carrots
Drain the carrots. I use a kitchen sieve, and just let the oil drip back into the pot.
I then use the sieve to strain the oil for later reuse.
Step 5: Add Salt and Garlic
Add salt and garlic to taste. For 500 g of peeled, uncooked carrots, I use 3-5 g of sea salt and 3 cloves of raw, micro-grated garlic.
Note that if you want to reuse the oil, you don't want to add the salt and garlic to the oil.
Step 6: Serve
Serve while still warm.