Not long ago, baby vegetables were a staple of fine restaurants. Now I think most chefs realize that tiny immature vegetables are not necessarily superior, just different. Young carrots lack the sweetness and developed flavors of the grownups, but they shouldn't be banished from the table. They're delicate and tender, and when cooked whole with a bit of their little green tops attached and glistening with butter, they're elegant. I like to cook them when they're finger-width; any smaller they aren't worth the bother. Here I've glazed them in chicken stock and tossed in fresh tarragon, making a beautiful accompaniment to a simple spring dinner of roasted chicken or poached fish.
Young Carrots with French Tarragon Recipe
• 2 bunches (1 pound trimmed) young carrots, finger-width and any length; or substitute 1 pound trimmed larger carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
• 1 cup homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock, or water
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, less if using canned stock
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped, fresh French tarragon
1. Cut off carrot tops, leaving 1/2 inch of green stem. Peel and wash carefully.
2. Place in saute pan large enough to hold carrots in a single layer (10 to 12 inches). Add stock, sugar, salt and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and let carrots boil gently until they can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife but are still firm, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Remove lid and continue to boil until all liquid evaporates and carrots are coated with glaze.
4. Add tarragon, toss and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Serves 4.
Herbal Improvisations: In place of tarragon, use 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint, dill or chives; 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped marjoram or lemon thyme; or 1/4 cup coarsely chopped chervil.
Learn more about cooking with culinary herbs in Traditional Herbal Recipes from Around the World.