I first made this dish in college, long before my culinary journey really got underway. Here's the scene: five girls (all from 1st East Olson) and five guys (all from 1st West Wengatz) convene for a night of home cooking and a skit at the nearby home of one of the guys (put on by the girls, the skit was the hilarious yet poignant tale of the five guys' fate in the "Mr. Taylor" competition. More than eleven years later, it still makes me laugh).
The guys were hosting the evening, but the girls were planning it, and each girl was given a task. I don't remember all of the specifics of who did what, but I do remember that Liz and I, who most enjoyed cooking (and probably had a boy we wanted to impress), muscled our way into being the cooks, giving others tasks like "linens" and "table decoration." We made a baked chicken with a teriyaki-like sauce (pineapple juice and soy sauce thickened with a cornstarch slurry), hasselback potatoes, and glazed carrots. Elementary stuff, it was, but if memory serves, it still turned out pretty tasty. One of the guys, no doubt being flattering, even said, "You need to give my mom a cooking lesson." Perhaps an overstatement, Jeremy, but a nice sentiment anyway.
I remember thinking that the carrots were going to be a very bland element of the meal--indeed, none of the meal had real "punch," so I figured something was in order. And for some reason, even though the sauce for the chicken was on the sweet side, I decided to go with a sweet glaze for the carrots, too.
My current recipe varies only slightly from that original dish; back then, I didn't know the joy of steaming vegetables, so those carrots were boiled (and very likely overcooked). And I'm pretty sure I assembled the glaze in a saucepan, but now, I skip that unnecessary dish. But even with those changes, the spirit of the dish is still the same, after all these years: simple, tasty, and satisfying.
p.s. If I had known how things were going to turn out with the guy I was trying to impress, I woudn't have bothered trying to impress him. Then again, my husband loves these carrots, so perhaps it was for the best.
4 large carrots
2 Tbsp. butter (approx.)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar (approx.)
salt and pepper to taste
Peel the carrots, and slice them to uniform thickness (about 1/4 in.), slightly on the diagonal. Slicing on the diagonal increases the surface area and, I believe, speeds up cooking time.
Steam carrots, either in a steamer basket in a pot on the stove, or in an electric rice cooker/steamer. I prefer the electric steamer, finding it a bit more foolproof, but a basket would certainly be a cheaper purchase, if you're looking to break into the world of steaming. Either way, be sure the carrots are not in any way submerged in the water, and steam to desired tenderness. I'm not going to tell you how long this takes, because the time will depend on both the thickness of the carrots and your preferred level of doneness. Just taste one after about 10 minutes and judge from there.
Cut the butter into smaller portions; slices are fine, or a dice. The goal is to get them to melt faster, so as long as it isn't just a huge hunk of butter, you'll be fine.
Place butter and brown sugar in the bottom of a medium bowl. When the carrots are done to your liking, discard the steaming water and dump the carrots into the bowl with the butter and sugar. Toss until the butter is melted and brown sugar is dissolved. Season with salt and pepper as desired, and serve.
*Note: you may also use baby carrots right out of the bag, but they will take a few more minutes to steam. They are just as delicious, though, so if these particular carrots are your millieu, go forth with gusto.