Easiest Answer to Side Dish Emergency

People who like to cook always have a kitchen stocked with the basics and can confidently embark on a recipe knowing there is a supply of things like onions, garlic, flour, butter, cinnamon, all of which can be used in an unending number of ways. We rely on our shelves and fridge to solve the “what’s for dinner” conundrum all of the time.

Whoever you are, chances are you have found yourself in need of a side dish for a meal more than once in your cooking life. Maybe it was an impromptu family dinner or a more complex menu for guests. Whether you plan meals at the last minute or work on an org chart to get everything “just right” ahead of entertaining, that extra side dish that makes a meal complete often slips through the cracks.

There is one common ingredient that is almost always in the kitchen but is totally underused. Sure, it serves as important supporting actor over and over, but rarely has the starring role. I’m here to tell you that a pound of carrots should always be your back-up plan.

I’m betting you have a few carrots in the bottom of your crisper right now, perhaps growing beards while they await the day you need them to make a stew or stock. Or perhaps you have a bag of ubiquitous “baby carrots” for snacking between Zoom calls.

Your mother was right to direct you to eat your carrots. They are unquestionably good for you. They are filled with nutrition and might just improve your sight. And they are inexpensive, another plus in these times.

When you get your hands on beautiful multi-colored carrots they will add a visual zip to the table. Roast them until soft, then glaze on top of the stove and serve them proudly. The recipe is simple to multiply, with easy-to-memorize proportions – 1 to 1 to 1 to 1 to 1—and it holds for later serving; you can serve them immediately or at room temperature. So next time you are in need of an easy veg for dinner or asked to contribute to a potluck or to bring the vegetable for Thanksgiving, this should be your answer.

Maybe you are in a hurry – say, you just this minute realized you don’t have a vegetable for dinner tonight? Quickly cut standard carrots into coins and boil until tender. Drain and, in the same pan, toss them for a few minutes with these simple glaze ingredients. Twenty minutes and one pan. What could be easier?

If horseradish is not languishing in your fridge (likely from a long past Seder dinner), grate some fresh ginger or use a tube of ginger paste. Equally delicious.

Once you have memorized this simple solution, I’m betting you will keep a bunch of carrots handy, as I do. I can’t say for sure that they will help you see better, but I guarantee they will see you through any side dish emergency.

Easy Glazed Carrots

  • 1 pound whole carrots
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Wash and trim ends from carrots; cut in half crosswise or leave whole. Cut any large ones in half lengthwise – you want all of the pieces to be more-or-less the same size for even roasting.

2. Preheat oven to 400º. Place carrots on a bake sheet and drizzle with the oil, tossing to coat. Roast until tender and beginning to brown, usually 30 – 45 minutes, depending on size. At this point, carrots may be made ahead and held until ready to serve.

 3. In a skillet large enough to hold carrots in a single layer, melt butter with the horseradish and honey until butter begins to bubble. Add carrots and toss over medium high heat about 4 minutes until glaze is bubbly and thickened and carrots are well coated.

4. Sprinkle with a generous shower of coarse sea salt and garnish with chopped carrot tops if desired. Serve warm.