Hello. Today I’m reporting to you from my kitchen counter, with heavy eyelids. Adam and I have been dozing off at inopportune times throughout the day, like infants. There is a sixteen-hour time difference between Los Angeles and Tokyo, and the jet lag (as promised) is Biblical. But for our trip to Japan, worth it. More on that later. For now, I’m addressing a more pressing topic: Thanksgiving. In Japan, of course, they don’t have Thanksgiving. They’re already onto Christmas. (Yep, criticize Hallmark and Macy’s all you want; there have been lights and trees up all over Japan since late October.) So it was easy to forget that a mere week and change after we returned, I would be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner in our apartment. It all came rushing back to me in the cab back from LAX, somewhere along the 105 freeway. Traffic can be a good reminder of real life like that.
Luckily, I don’t deviate much from my usual menu. I’m stubborn about Thanksgiving (among other things). I have this idea that it should be about simple, intuitive flavors—the tart punch of cranberry sauce or the cream in smooth mashed potatoes, for instance. Flavors that satisfy our most quintessential appetites for sweet, fat, starch, etc. It’s harder for a vegetable dish to do that. But these orange braised carrots and parsnips do the trick, in a different way. The candy-like brightness of the citrus with the earthiness of the thyme and shallots make these humble root veggies into their starchiest, sweetest selves. It’s as if they were always meant to taste this way. And it’s how I’d guess they tasted, pulled fresh from the ground, if I didn’t know any better. Try them, and tell me if you agree.
Orange Braised Carrots + Parsnips
1 lb carrots (I use rainbow carrots—just for looks.)
1 lb parsnips
3 large shallots, sliced very thin
4 tbsp orange zest
3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil
12 fresh thyme sprigs
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh thyme leaves or chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Trim and peel the carrots and parsnips. Then cut them in half, lengthwise. If you have some smaller, skinner ones in the bunch, just leave them whole.
Heat the olive oil on medium in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot large enough for the carrots and parsnips to lay flat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the shallots become soft and start to brown a little (about five minutes).
Add the orange juice and half of the zest, the thyme sprigs, the red pepper flakes, and a generous dash of salt. Scrape up any brown bits created by the shallots and give everything a good swirl to combine.
Once the liquid is uniform, place the carrots and parsnips into the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover tightly with the lid. Transfer to the oven for about an hour to ninety minutes.
When the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the oven. Transfer the carrots and parsnips to a serving plate, toss with the remaining 2 tbsp of orange zest and garnish with parsley or thyme or both.