Sometimes we get cooking inspiration from unlikely places.
My husband and I were deep into a binge of Netflix's Queer Eye Season 2 the other night when Antoni Porowski, the show's food and wine expert, did what Antoni does: Create a totally adorable dish for the subject of that episode's makeover to make himself at home.
The guy, Jason, is really into Burning Man, a yearly festival out in the Nevada desert (stay with me), and he also is a huge fan of peanut butter. So Antoni comes up with a portable snack Jason can bring out to the desert: roasted peanuts, mixed with red onion, cayenne pepper, cilantro and lime juice.
Frankly, it is ridiculous.
I love Antoni, and I do not subscribe to the widely held belief that he can't cook because everything he makes on the show is so #basic. He does a good job of creating delicious dishes while keeping it simple, something I definitely can get behind. (I also firmly support his use of Greek yogurt in everything.)
But this snack is crazy.
First of all, dousing roasted peanuts with lime juice immediately makes them soggy. And eating a snack like that with your hands is just bananas — they're going to get all lime juice-y and messy!
But it is definitely something I would eat, albeit with a spoon. And it inspired me to work those flavors into this week's dish.
I had an abundance of rainbow carrots in my fridge, because I always overbuy carrots and then have to cook them in a large batch before they go bad. Normally, I roast them with some olive oil and salt and pepper. But I wanted to send things in a more peanut-y direction this time.
Chopping the carrots carefully into uniformly sized cubes means they can cook quicker and evenly in a skillet on the stovetop. That's where you'll begin. They go into the skillet with some olive oil, and don't be afraid to get a good sear on them. It's important for flavor-building. Next, honey goes into the pan to help caramelize the orange beauties. Take your time with this; it's essential that the carrots are nice and honey-coated before adding the sauce.
That's where the peanut flavor comes in.
I knew I wanted to sprinkle crushed, roasted peanuts on top at the end, but also wanted to get some nuttiness into the dish before that. Let's turn to our very versatile friend peanut butter for that, plus a teeny drop of sesame oil, and some lime juice for the all-important acidity.
It took me a few tries to get this saucy blend just right, but I think I've gotten it to a place where the nutty flavor shines through and helps balance the sweetness of the carrots and added honey.
Serving the dish with fresh cilantro and fresh lime wedges is not optional, as both provide a necessary pop of brightness. The best part: Because this is a composed dish to be eaten with a fork, you won't have to worry about getting either ingredient all over your hands. No offense, Antoni.
Nutty Glazed Carrots With Lime
½ cup to 1 cup shelled raw peanuts
¼ cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
½ teaspoon sesame oil
About 4 large carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup honey (a little less works, too, if you're sugar-conscious)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 small jalapeno or half of a large one, minced
Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Place peanuts on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast for about 10 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to make sure they're not browning too quickly. They're done when they're fragrant and just slightly brown. When done, remove from oven and transfer peanuts to a small bowl. Set aside.
Meanwhile, juice one of the limes and add to a small bowl. Cut the other lime in half and set aside. Add peanut butter and sesame oil to bowl with lime juice, and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Peel and wash carrots, then chop into small cubes, about ½ inch. It's important that they're all about the same size so they cook evenly.
Add olive oil to skillet and heat until warm. Add carrots and season with salt and pepper. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
When carrots are softer and a little browned, lower heat to medium and add honey and cayenne pepper. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring to coat carrots in honey, until carrots are soft when pierced with a fork.
Add jalapeno to pan and stir. Pour in peanut butter sauce and stir well to distribute. Cook for another minute or two until sauce has coated the carrots. Remove skillet from heat and add carrots to a serving bowl.
Top with roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro. Serve with halved lime.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times