The ultimate carrot recipe for kids: copper pennies (my way)
Someone I know was looking for carrot recipes that "even the most finicky kid would eat" today, which brought to mind one of my "not quite a recipe" dishes: Copper Pennies
My first memory of Copper Pennies comes from The Dunes restaurant in Grayland, WA. The Dunes, marked on highway 101 by only an eight-foot tall statue of an...ahem, erect...Geoduck, was unpretentious, serving whatever had been caught that day, and only that, prepared in one of several ways (fried, baked, sauteed in butter), with the same couple of not terribly inspired sides for every meal. (have you looked at the Geoduck yet? if not, go...now. I'll wait. tick tick tick Did you look? Worth the click, huh? Now imagine it eight feet tall. And going there at sixteen on a date.)
I am sure that by today's sometimes haughty standards, it would be
considered quaint...or worse, but it was fresh, honest food that
traveled only a few miles to my plate. I like my fish that way: live
this morning, and dinner tonight.
And the pies. Oh. My. Goodness. The pies! It was like having Sunday dinner with company coming at Grandma's house, if your Grandma happened to have fishing boats delivering daily and a staff of prep cooks. (and if yours did, I am totally jealous!)
Although the place is now, sadly, gone in a fire, I can still recall, however, sitting at one of those window tables nibbling on the chilled, sweet and sour carrots while waiting for the freshest seafood and the good-enough-to-be-mandatory blackberry pie, made with the tiny wild blackberries that I'd seldom bother to pick myself but coveted when others did the work for me.
I haven't looked but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a thousand recipes for Copper Pennies. They are sweet and just the right size for little people's hands, yet they don't really have a lot of added sweetener. It's more like the vermouth in a good dry martini, where (according to one of my favorite descriptions) "the word 'vermouth' should merely be mentioned loudly enough to make the gin cringe." I think that holding the brown sugar open near the pan of cooking carrots is almost enough.
Okay, I take it back, I just looked and apparently the "classic Copper Pennies" are made with canned tomato soup and marinated for days in the refrigerator. Now I am sorry I looked, I am sorry I even wondered. No, I am not going to link to any of them, it's all too disillusioning.
I've found that these are readily adaptable to whatever seasonings are on hand and sounding tempting. They are also great for encouraging kids to experiment with flavors. Carrots are pretty forgiving and cheap enough that if you create something really disgusting you can toss it without feeling wasteful.
(recipe after the jump)
Wash carrots and cut into 1/2 inch rounds. Place in pan with enough water to cover them about halfway, a sprinkle of salt, a piece of cinnamon stick and a smidge of brown sugar
(the brown sugar is almost an aromatic here; maybe it's psychological, but it's more caramely if I add even a 1/4 tsp of brown sugar...)
Simmer til tender, but not soft. Drain, keeping the liquid. Put the carrots in bowl and cover.
Return liquid to pan, with cinnamon stick and gently boil until reduced to a few spoonsful and slightly thickened. Remove cinnamon stick, add a few drops of cider vinegar (maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp), the merest of hints of cold butter and swirl to combine. Return carrots to pan and toss quickly to glaze.
Serve warm (immediately) or let sit on counter for up to six hours and serve at room-temperature. Keeps chilled for a few days.
Variations: depending on your audience and mood, add one or more of the following to the sauce instead of the vinegar:
- a few drops of balsalmic or rice, or cider vinegar (all good, but *not* at all the same)
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- a grating of fresh nutmeg
- tiny bit of grated ginger (candied or fresh--like the vinegar, they do very different things)
- I haven't tried it with smoked paprika (a friend's daughter just brought some back from Spain) but I bet it'd be good.
Or skip the butter...or the vinegar...or the cinnamon. I think I tried vanilla once. I'm pretty sure I dropped a bay leaf in once too. (Since mine aren't authentic anyway, the endless variations aren't a problem, are they?) And, like I said, carrots are forgiving.