Chefs use carrots for more than just salads. The bright orange root vegetables, in season from June through the fall, can be prepared in almost countless ways, adding an underlying sweetness to any dish.
Sweet potato fries are usually a healthy(ish) go-to side, but at The Bruncheonette in Joplin, Missouri, executive chef Sean Flanagan, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Chas, serves up carrot fries alongside tuna burgers, pulled pork and smoked salmon sandwiches. Flanagan and his team julienne buckets of carrots at a time and store them in water; when it’s time to make the fries, they dust them in flour and flash fry them before serving. “We really do our best to be different and try to come up with something new,” Flanagan says. “They’re delicious and easy. We don’t have a lot of space here, so buckets of carrots take up less space than a freezer full of sweet potato fries.” The carrot fries are so good, in fact, that the kitchen simply seasons them with salt and pepper before sending them out – they don’t even need sauce. “Some people request ranch, but we don’t have that, so I’ll typically send out a side of hollandaise just in case,” Flanagan says. “But once people try them, most like them plain.”
The Bruncheonette, 424 N. Main St., Joplin, Missouri, 417.781.3447, thebruncheonette.net
Il Bel Lago
The cannellone della casa has been on the menu at Il Bel Lago in Creve Coeur, Missouri, since it opened 13 years ago, but the recipe goes back even further. Chef-owner Frank Gabriele picked it up during his days working for his father’s beloved St. Louis restaurant, Giovanni’s. “Oh my gosh, we sell so many,” Gabriele says. “We have people come in just for [this]; they have cannellone every time they come in.” First he sears chunks of veal and then sautés them with carrots, onion and celery. After it’s cooked down a bit, the veal is deglazed with white wine and veal stock – “very important,” Gabriele says – and transferred to a big kettle to reduce. Two to three hours later, he grinds the veal and vegetables and then adds eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The mixture is used to stuff egg crêpes (a lighter version of the traditional pasta dough-based crêpes), and everything is topped with a Bolognese béchamel before it’s baked. “In this dish, the carrots bring a little sweetness, which goes really well with the veal and Parmigiano-Reggiano,” Gabriele says. “Depending on what you’re cooking, carrots can really contribute nicely to almost any dish.”
Il Bel Lago, 11631 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, Missouri, 314.994.1080, bellagostl.com
Rozzelle Court at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
At the acclaimed restaurant inside Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Rozzelle Court, executive chef Jonathan Pye changes the menu daily, and he uses carrots often. Recently, Pye did a carrot-miso reduction to complement an Asian-influenced fish dish. Pye cooked down the carrots with miso, soy sauce and sugar, put the mixture into a Vitamix and served it under a cobia fillet with baby bok choy. “Carrots just have a nice little sweetness, especially when you’re making demi-glace or something like that,” he says. “If you’re braising with red wine or Guinness or whatever, it turns it a little bitter so the carrots balance that a bit and give it a nice color, too – instead of a dark brown, it makes it a little more orange, so I like the color aspect of it.” Pye also enjoys using carrots in desserts: Rozzelle Court recently served a pineapple-ginger carrot cake garnished with candied carrots. “They make pretty good desserts if you put a little sugar in with them,” Pye says.
Rozelle Court, 4525 Oak St. (inside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), Kansas City, Missouri, nelson-atkins.org/rozzelle-court-restaurant