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Caramelized Carrot Risotto

Juliet Glass has developed three fun recipes for the April 2008 issue of Sunset Magazine, "3 ways with Fresh Carrots". The carrots seem extra sweet this spring, and I thought caramelized carrots sounded like a good idea, so I tested the Caramelized Carrot Risotto.

The risotto was very delicious, but it was a bit time-consuming and requires a few more steps than a usual risotto - including using a food processor to puree half of the caramelized carrots... but the result was quite lovely and very pretty. I think I will rework this another time and use carrot juice instead of whirling the carrots. I followed the recipe exactly, except I made only half. This resulted in a lot of left-over mascarpone... tiramisu anyone?

Caramelized Carrot Risotto

Delicate mascarpone cheese is a natural companion to sweet caramelized carrots in this brightly hued risotto. Prep and Cook Time: 1 1/4 hours. Notes: To make this risotto even prettier, you can cut the carrots into 1/4-in. dice (it's time-consuming, but makes the carrots look like little jewels). Mascarpone—a rich Italian-style cream cheese available at specialty, gourmet, and Whole Foods stores—can be replaced with an equal amount of heavy cream.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely and evenly as possible (about 3 cups; see Notes) About 1/2 tsp. salt 1 teaspoon sugar 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 1/3 cup minced onion 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice 1/2 cup dry white wine 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese 1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese, plus 1/2 cup for garnish 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 tbsp. for garnish 1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1. Heat 1 tbsp. oil and 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat in a medium heavy-bottomed pot; add carrots and stir with a wooden spoon until well coated. Add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the sugar; cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown, a few minutes more. Reserve half of the carrots. In a blender, purée other half with 3/4 cup hot water.

2. Bring chicken broth to a simmer and keep at a simmer, covered, over low heat.

3. Heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat in same (unwashed) pot used for carrots. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add rice, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat rice with oil, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until wine evaporates. Add carrot purée and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

4. Add 1/2 cup hot broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid. Repeat process, adding 1/2 cup broth at a time and stirring often till each addition is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes; at least 1 cup broth will remain).

5. Fold in reserved carrots (save 2 tbsp. for garnish), mascarpone, 1/4 cup parmesan, 1 tbsp. parsley, and the thyme. Add up to 1 cup broth (1/4 cup at a time) to loosen the risotto. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

6. Sprinkle each bowl of risotto with some of remaining 1/2 cup parmesan, remaining 1 tbsp. parsley, and reserved carrots. Serve immediately.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings as a side dish or first course

Sunset, APRIL 2008   (print the recipe at Sunset.com)

Caramelized Carrot Risotto

Served with baby greens tossed with olive oil, vinegar and blue cheese

NOTES: I used home-made double-strength chicken stock, which was possibly a little too-much for the carrots. I advise using a vegetable broth. This recipe can be made vegan by using vegetable stock (and how about a little carrot juice?) and omitting the butter and cheese and it would still be delicious.

VERDICT: The flavors are right, but the recipe did not need to be so complicated.