A Taproot Orange Transcript

The Garden – Night time

    [AB is using night vision goggles to catch a rabbit] All right, we've got the box ready ...  got the string. Okay, now we need some bait. Nice. Fat juicy carrot. Yeah, bunnies love carrots. Okay, now just feed out the string. I'm going to have you this year!! Oh, I'm going to ... oh, there he is! Oh look how big he's gotten. I'm going to need a bigger box. Oh, he's so juicy and nice and big. [night vision goggles fail] Oh, stupid goggles again. [goggles resume functioning] Okay ... all right ... hey ... there he is ... okay, okay. Pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up, he's going for it, he's going for ... [goggles fail] Stupid. [goggles resume functioning] Okay, okay, all right, all right. [rabbit is now taking an interest in the carrot] Just one more, just one more. Little bunny's going to take one more tiny itsy bitsy bite! I've got ‘ya. Ah ha ha ha ha! It's Hasenpfeffer tonight!! [Opens the rabbit trap, to find that it is empty] What the ...? What? Ohh, I hate that rabbit.
    Well, I guess Bugs Bunny not withstanding, bunnies don't really care that much about carrots; and that's a real shame because carrots are unique in the vegetable world. I mean, this little humble taproot contains more sugar than any vegetable save sugar beets. But unlike the sugar beet—which is good for absolutely nothing but making sugar—the carrot moves effortlessly from salad to side course to main course to dessert and beyond. And of course, eating carrots gives you a real edge at night. I mean, look, see that owl Oh look. He's hunting something, he's ... [sound of an owl attacking a rabbit]

ALTON BROWN: [to the rabbit] See. You didn't take the carrot. Llook what happened to ‘ya.

    Silly rabbit. He didn't know that carrots aren't just good for ‘ya, they're seriously ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]


    Although carrot roots and greens have been consumed at least since the pyramids were shiny and new, up until the Renaissance, this cousin of dill, cumin, parsley, and Queen Anne's Lace was thought of more as medicine than cuisine. According to a medicinal manual of the Middle Ages, carrots were especially good for relieving gas and urinary tract infections, as well the occasional touch of bronchitis. Good news for me.

Harry's Farmers Market: Marietta, GA – 9:35 am

GUEST: Three 17th century Dutchmen

    Today, the carrot is the second most popular vegetable on earth—the potato is number one. Now some experts believe that it's the bright orange color that we actually love so much. But truth is, the original carrots didn't look like this. The original carrots looked like this [holds up a much darker black-colored bunch of small raw carrots]. Indeed, the black carrots were cultivated in the Balkans and part of Afghanistan as early as the first century A.D. By the time the 17th century rolled around, carrots came in just about every color you could imagine but orange.

DUTCHMAN: [steps up and takes AB's varied colored carrots]

    And then along came the Dutch, the very same botanical tinkerers responsible for the hundreds of flavors of tulips and green peppers. Now Dutch growers managed to cross carrots of their day with variations until they isolated this rare mutation from North Africa, which displayed a huge amount of beta-carotene, which, of course, is as orange as the day is long.

DUTCHMAN: [returns and hands AB orange carrots]

    Now why bother doing this? Politics, my friend. You see, at this time, Holland was under the rule of the French House of Orange, so I don't know if they were kissing up for subsidies, or just paying homage. I don't know. But luckily today, colored carrots are back on the scene. In fact, maroon carrots are very very big in Europe, especially around countries like England.

DUTCHMAN: [reaches into frame and takes carrots]

    Oh bother.

According to Guinness World Records, the largest carrot
ever grown weighed a whopping 18 pounds, 13 ounces.

The Kitchen

    Whenever possible, I buy bunch carrots with the greens intact. That's because these are a very good indicator of freshness. If they are bright and very, very green and kind of "perky"—yeah, I'd say perky—then you can bet that these are going to be fresh. But, when you get them home, the greens have got to go. That's because they will continue to sap moisture and nutrients out of the carrots. Now I always trim, leaving about an inch of stem intact there, so that no more moisture than is necessary will be lost from the carrot. As for the greens, well, you could do a lot with them. You could eat them, although I don't think they'd taste very good. Or you could do what Victorian women used to do in England, and put them on your hat [places them on a hat and models] ... or, or not. You don't ... you don't have to.
    As for storage, the common practice is to stash these in plastic bags like this. Take a look. You see that condensation. That's not a good thing. That kind of moisture held up against the carrots, are only going to shorten their shelf life. So what I prefer to do is to stash these in good old fashioned bubble wrap, the small textured kind. Just roll them up. See, the thing is that the plastic will keep some moisture close to the carrots, but the texture of the bubble wrap will prevent that moisture from gathering right on the surface of the carrots. That's what leads to rotting. So just kind of bunch that up and you can just stick that right in there, or you can put a rubber band around them. So the choice is yours. I've got anywhere from ten days to one month of freshness here [in the bubble wrap] or I've got, maybe, ten days of freshness here [in a plastic bag]. The choice is yours.
    Down south where I live, carrot salad, or carrot slaw is a classic side dish. The problem is, is that most recipes call for grated carrots, which always seem to turn to mush before I get a chance to eat the gosh darn stuff. Now the way around this is to think noodles, not slaw.

    Now you are going to need two pounds of carrots, and if they're less than an inch in diameter at the base, the outer layer will be relatively thin, so you could just go over them with a scrubby pad under running water. If they are thicker than an inch, you're probably going to want to peel them, which is no big deal, because we're going to need a peeler anyway for the noodle portion of the program.

2 Pounds Carrots Cleaned

    Now I prefer a Y-shaped peeler rather than a straight peeler. Now just lay the carrot on your board, and I like to hold the small tip. And then just peel off the noodles. And turn the carrot, so that the noodles are never wider than, say, hand-cut fettuccini.
    Once your noodles are fabricated, it's time to move to the dressing/marinade portion of the program. Hardware? You will require a whisk, and a mixing bowl or a containment unit that's at least twice the volume of the noodles. Okay.

    Now as far as the componenture here of software, you can go very simple, or very complicated. If you're going to do the straightforward southern thing, you're going to be talking about half a cup of mayonnaise—sticky stuff—a pinch of salt, a third of a cup sugar, half a cup of crushed canned pineapple, carefully drained, please, and—if you're really feeling traditional—half a cup of raisins. And you just whisk that together.

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Canned Crushed
    Pineapple Drained
1/2 Cup Raisins

    Of course, you might feel like jazzing this whole thing up a little bit. I mean, this is kind of kid stuff, right? So let's go to the spice rack, shall we?

    When it comes to spicing up carrots, I believe that you get more punch for your pinch if you stick with spices that are in the carrot's own botanical family. Now curry powder, for instance, is a classic carrot companion mostly because it contains cumin, a close carrot cousin. Believe it or not, just a couple little teaspoons of curry powder will migrate this dish from southern Georgia all the way to southern India. Now you could also add a few sprinklings of celery seed, or you might even go with caraway seeds, both of which are carrot cousins.

2 tsp. Curry Powder

Mae West once said, "I never worry about diets. The only carrots
that interest me are the number you can get in a diamond."

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing, Three Royal Air Force Pilots

    We'll go with just a little pinch of the caraway and celery seed—just a little something for the effort. And to up the heat a bit, we'll go with a teaspoon of minced garlic. A little stir, just to work that curry powder in. There we go. And we'll work in the carrots. Sorry about the mess.

1 Pinch Each
    Caraway Seed
    Celery Seed

1 tsp. Minced Garlic

THING: [offers a flexible cutting board]
AB: Yes, Thing. if I had used a flexible cutting mat, I wouldn't be having this problem now. But it's a little too late for that, don't you think?

    Hands ... can be so critical.
    Now cover and just give it a good shake. This is a heck of a lot easier than trying to completely stir it. And gosh darn it, it's fun. Now once you've got it mixed up, you can eat it right away. Or you can let it sit and marinate in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Slaw comes from the Dutch word for "salad".

    [takes a bite] Mmm. Good. Mighty Good. And darn good for you. Why? Well, there's a bunch of fiber, it's packed with potassium, there's even some protein, not to mention 20,250 International Units of vitamin A. Well, not exactly vitamin A. But beta-carotene, the naturally-occurring orange pigment, which, in the lining of your small intestines, is converted into vitamin A. Is that a good thing? Yes! Why?
    Behold, the human eyeball. Okay, it's a kettle grill with a fancy paint job. Just work with me here for a second, okay, people?
    Now most folks are familiar with these structures—the pupil, the iris, the lens, the stuff that brings light into the eyeball. But the real scene, that happens way back here [opens the kettle] in the back of the eyeball. Here are the nerve structures that do the actual seeing, rods and cones. Now the cones see colors and bright images, and the rods see black and white images in dim light. Now here's the cool part. The chemical that rods use to see in dim light is called rhodopsin, and if so much as a photon of light hits a molecule of this stuff, it splits into two other chemicals, retinol and opsin.
    Now if there's a lot of light available, then all the rhodopsin will split. That's why, if you stand in a nice, bright bathroom at night, and then turn off the light, you're plunged into darkness even though there's still plenty of light around, coming under the door, through the window, and what have you. Now at this point the cones, they can't see squat in low light, and the rods are all out of gas. Wait 30 seconds or so, and some of the rhodopsin will reform and you'll be able to see again. But, the amount of rhodopsin you can make depends on how much retinol you've got in your system. And retinol is just another name for vitamin A. And vitamin A is made in the lining of your intestines from beta-carotene, and nothing delivers beta-carotene like carrots.
    It is said that, during World War II, the R. A. F. shoveled so many carrots into their pilots in order to improve their night vision, that you could actually pick the poor blokes out of a crowd simply by their orange skin.

RAFPs: [all have very orange skin, they salute]
AB: [returns the salute] Brilliant!

    This happened because excess beta-carotene is stored in skin and fat cells. Now, since this form of vitamin A never becomes toxic, the only harm is cosmetic. However, the vitamin A we get from animal tissue can be toxic, especially if comes from the livers of arctic critters. Believe it or not, one polar bear liver can kill you quicker than a blowfish fillet.

AB: [salutes the pilots] Dismissed!

Lutein, a nutrient found in green leafy vegetables,
plays a major role in maintaining eye health.

    The most popular carrot dish around my house is something that we call "A Pan Full of Krugerrands". It also goes by the name "glazed carrots", "braised carrots", "golden coins", or "honey coins". But regardless of what name it goes by, this is a simple dish, but it's also really, really simple to mess up. Nine times out of ten, it either turns out mushy, or it's sickeningly sweet, or it's raw, or bland, or woody. But all of these things can be avoided.

    Step one: you'll need a pound of carrots, cut no thinner than a quarter inch and no thicker than one-third of an inch. Now, to ensure consistency, I like to use an instrument called a mandoline.

1 Pound Carrots Cleaned &
    Cut Into 1/4 Inch Coins

THING: [holds up a mandolin instrument]
AB: Wrong mandoline, Thing.

    Now, consistency is golden because it means that each and every piece of carrot will be done at exactly the same time. We also want to cut on a 45-degree angle—or what we call "on the bias"—because it creates more surface area and it looks good on the final plate. And it's a cut that's very easy to do on a mandoline. Now mandolines all come with hand guards and you'll notice that I'm not using mine. And that is because it is almost impossible to cut carrots on a mandoline with a hand guard. I am, however, wearing a cut-resistant glove. And I suggest that you do the very same thing, because food is good, but safety should always come first.

The mandoline is thusly named because cooks "play" it
similarly to the musical instrument for which it is named.

The Kitchen

    Now, we need a cooking vessel that will provide an appropriate platform for two distinct phases of cooking, braising and glazing. A 12-inch fry pan like this would certainly be up to the challenge, but we need a lid and most fry pans don't come with a lid. Now if you've got a 12-inch sauté pan or stock pot, you can harvest its lid, otherwise you might want to pick up a universal lid like this one which will fit any pot from about eight inches to 12 inches. It's even got a handy steam vent. Now we cook.
    Unlike most hybrid dishes, with our carrots we are actually going to begin with the braising process; that is, the simmering long and low in a flavorful liquid. Then we are going to do the browning in a little bit of fat and a little bit of sugar which will certainly add a lot of flavor. And that, by the way, is the difference between glazing and simply sautéing. So here we go.

    Our one pound of carrots go into the pan, along with our cooking fat, which is just one ounce of unsalted butter, a wee pinch of salt, and one cup of good quality ginger ale. We'll turn that to medium heat—there we go—and slap on our unicover.

1 Ounce Unsalted Butter
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
1 Cup Good Quality Ginger

    The way I see it, the ginger ale is a cunning addition here because it's going to supply almost everything we need: the water, some sugar, and a very strong flavoring. It's going to make these carrots just get up and dance right out of the pan. Now drop the heat to medium-low, slap on the lid, and set your timer for exactly five minutes.

The first soft drink produced in the United States was ginger ale.

    Now, remove the lid, add one-half teaspoon of chili powder, and turn the heat all the way up. We're just going to toss the pan from time to time. Just give it little shake, but don't stir it, especially not with tongs ... [in a Scottish brogue] because carrots won't be able to take the pressure, and they'll fall apart.

1/2 tsp. Chili Powder

    [resumes in normal voice] Let this go for four to five minutes or until the liquid is almost cooked out. In the meantime, we shall consider some last-minute herbal additions.

The Windowsill

    When it comes to carrots, what is true of spices is true for herbs as well: they play better with their own botanical family. Now that's because carrots, celery, parsley, caraway, dill, fennel, things like that, all share a unique flavor compound, petroselinic acid. Okay? So, by seasoning carrots with, say, a tablespoon of fresh parsley, we not only build a portfolio of contrasting flavors, we'll actually intensify the carrot flavor itself because we're dosing up on petroselinic acid. Science, it tastes good, don't it?

The Kitchen

    Once the majority of the liquid is cooked out of the pan, the temperature is going to start to rise as the carrots begin to glaze over in the fat and caramelizing sugar that remains from the ginger ale.

    Now, alternate pan jiggles with maybe spooning the glaze over the ovals. But, when they just barely resist the advances of a paring knife— like that—sprinkle with the herbage, and serve.

1 Tbs. Chopped Fresh Parsley

    Mmmm, spicy, sweet, herby, savory ...  I don't know. This dish captures everything that carrots have to offer. It's a very popular dish in England, by the way, which is where I learned how to make it. By the way, England is the one country where carrot consumption beats out potato consumption.
    Speaking of England, did you know that back during the Blitz when England ran short of sugar, they did not give up their sweets. No sir. They just did what their ancestors did back when things were tough in the Middle Ages; they turned to the carrot. Yes sir. This is the period that gave birth to the carrot cake. Ahh, the carrot cake. You know, the only dessert I know of based entirely on a taproot. And I especially love carrot cake because with a little artful subterfuge, you can pass it off for breakfast.

The modern carrot cake descended from medieval carrot puddings.

The Kitchen

    To bake your cake, fire your oven up to 350 degrees, then lube up your cake pan liberally with butter, all the way up the sides. Flour it, tap out the excess, and then press a parchment round right into the bottom.


    Next up, the carrots. Shred twelve ounces worth on the medium grater on a box grater. Please do not attempt to execute this step with your food processor or you'll just make carrot juice, and that's another show ... or at least it could be. Now, on to the batter. 12 Ounces Grated Carrots

    It is important to note that carrot cake is not actually a cake at all, at least not from a mixing standpoint. It is, in fact, a muffin. And being a muffin, it should be mixed together using the muffin method. That is, all the dry ingredients should be mixed together, all the wet get mixed together, and then they are brought together. Only this time, we're going to add a little twist to the procedure.

    We begin with the dry ingredients going in to the food processor. Take twelve ounces by weight of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, a quarter teaspoon each of allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg—freshly grated, not that nasty tinned stuff—for a spin, along with a wee little half teaspoon of salt. Now as soon as this is thoroughly combined, we dump into the carrots, and toss to coat. 12 Ounces All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Each
    Baking Powder &
    Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Freshly Grated
1/2 tsp. Salt
    Now, over to the wet side of the equation. Ten ounces of sugar, and two ounces of dark brown sugar. That's right. Remember, sugar is almost always considered a wet good in baking. Three eggs go in, along with six ounces of plain or vanilla yogurt, okay. Now we'll take that for a spin. 10 Ounces Sugar
2 Ounces Brown Sugar
3 Whole Eggs
6 Ounces Plain Yogurt
    Now here comes the little twist in the procedure. We're going to drizzle in six ounces of vegetable oil. Why? Well, because the batter will come together faster, and that will mean less stirring, and that means less gluten formation, and that will make a more tender product. 6 Ounces Vegetable Oil

    [Adds the wet mixture to the dry mixture] And I like to use my hands for mixing. Just ten times.
    Pan up your batter, and slide it into your 350 degree oven. Let this bake for 45 minutes, then back the heat down to 325 degrees, and let it go for another 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature hits 205 to 210 degrees. And you want to take your reading about halfway between the middle and the rim. So, we'll go right there. 208. Good enough for me. Come to Daddy!

    Now for the frosting. Eight ounces of cream cheese and two ounces of unsalted butter at room temperature are beaten smooth. Then add a teaspoon of vanilla, and work in nine ounces of confectioner's sugar. 8 Ounces Cream Cheese
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
9 Ounces Powdered Sugar

    After the sugar is all worked in, chill your frosting for five to ten minutes and then go ahead and spread it on your carrot cake. And of course, a carrot cake isn't so much a cake, as it is a muffin, and everybody knows, there's nothing like a muffin for breakfast. Yum. Of course, I can think of one other thing to do with this cake.

The Garden: Night Time

    [Outfitted with night vision goggles, takes a slice of carrot cake out into the garden, whispering] Yeah, wait. Cake. [places the carrot cake in the rabbit trap] There. Okay, okay. Ahh, you know, sometimes you just have to get creative with your bait. I'll bet we'll have a new bunny in the box in no time flat. [Feels a tug on his line] Bingo. [Pulls the string, we hear a vicious and angry dog, speaks quickly] Oh bother. See you next time on "Good Eats".

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Last Edited 08/27/2010