Butter: Not Just For Peanuts

At a christmas party last year I was rampaging my way through a cheese plate when I stumbled upon a strange orange spread. It wasn’t a cheese from the looks of it, but it wasn’t any kind of jam either. Just what was this mysterious orange mush?

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There was only one way to find I out. I grabbed my trusty crostini and began an investigation.

It turns out that this miraculous substance was Carrot Butter. A magical substance that was rich but not too heavy, sweet but savory in the way only a caramelized vegetable can be. I ate almost all of it. I was too pleased with the carrot butter to be concerned with social disgrace.

So now, over a year later, with the Super Bowl looming, and inventive dip thereby a necessity, I decided to make my own. I reached out to the original creator, my culinary sensei Pam Saindon, for the recipe.

It turns out the secret to crafting rich carrot butter is nishime, a Japanese method of cooking vegetables. The object of nishime is to cook the vegetables through without them losing their form, and in the process you want lots of water to condense into the vegetables. I set out to master the japanese technique, and make some damn good carrots.

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I began by chopping my carrots to a reasonable size (in retrospect I should have chopped them smaller). I then piled them up in a sauce pan with enough water to almost cover them (in hindsight this was too much water). I started simmering them, hoping to cook all the water off, or into, the carrots.

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Meanwhile, I sautéed a red onion until it was clear, but not too soft. Once the carrots started to soften a bit, I threw these onions into the pan.

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My problem at this point was that I had too much water. As I understand Nishime, your water should be constantly simmering off, and you should keep adding just a little bit until the carrots are soft. By contrast, I was making onion and carrot soup, and my carrots were getting more than a little mushy.

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I dutifully waited until all the water had boiled off. The carrots were somewhat richer, and a lot softer, but not like they should have been. This is one of those recipes I will have to make a few times to get right.

Undaunted by my underwhelming carrots and onions, I took them to the food processor, where I pureed them with olive oil, salt and dill.

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The result, thought not quite the rich butter I was looking for, was quite delicious. Carrots have such great flavor and so much natural sweetness that even a little onion, olive oil and salt can make them a force to be reckoned with.

So thats the story of how I turned a bushel of carrots into a dip worthy of my Super Bowl table. It will be a nice light offset to my  Cam Newton sized portion of sour cream and potato chips.

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