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.

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