Glazed carrots are a classic vegetable side dish that employs a trés French technique called glaçage, for which vegetables are cooked at a rapid boil with stock, butter, and a sweetener such as sugar or honey until tender and the liquid has reduced to a glossy emulsified sauce. Agitation from the boiling, along with swirling and stirring the pan that the vegetables are cooking in, provides the mechanical action required to build a stable emulsion for the glaze (just as you would for a silky pan sauce or properly finished pasta). Inspired by Korean sweet soy-glazed potato banchan, this version of glazed carrots pairs Bugs Bunny’s vegetable of choice with an assertively seasoned glaze made with gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and burnt honey that strikes the perfect balance between savory, sweet, and spicy.
One recurring problem with glazed carrots (and other root vegetables) is that the dish can easily veer into too-sweet territory, making them more of a pre-dessert than savory side dish. Carrots are already high in natural sugars—in order to survive cold conditions, carrots convert starch to sugar to act as natural form of anti-freeze. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns is well-known for farming “high-Brix” (read: super-sweet) carrots by leaving them in the soil through multiple freezes before harvesting, to push the vegetable’s sugar content to the limit. So, it’s no surprise that combining a naturally sweet vegetable with an added sweetener like honey or sugar in a glaze can make for an overly saccharine dish.
For these glazed carrots, we combat this problem by first intentionally burning the honey, blooming it in a saucepan until it darkens to a molasses shade of dark brown. This imparts subtle bitterness, balancing the honey’s natural sweetness. Gochugaru is then added along with the carrots, minced ginger, and garlic. The floral heat of the Korean pepper flakes and fresh ginger complements and tempers the sweetness of the carrots and honey. Stock, butter, soy sauce, and fish sauce are then added to the mix and brought to a boil.
The carrots get covered and cooked until just tender and the liquid has emulsified. For the final couple of minutes, the carrots are cooked uncovered, to allow the glaze to reduce to a glossy coating. The finishing touch is a dash of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil off-heat, to lend acidity and bolster the toasty, subtle bitterness of the burnt honey. This is a quick-cooking vegetable side that is anything but an afterthought, and fits in just as well with a weeknight meal as with a holiday feast.