potluck is totally the way to go for thanksgiving, by the way - you get to taste different people's traditional family dishes and bring your own favorites, ensuring that it's never boring and that no one has to do everything (only to become bitter when guests don't fully appreciate the work that went into the puff pastry swan placecard holders that took 17 hours to make).
in that spirit, this is an easy and quick little side dish that would be more than welcome at any holiday gathering (or a regular old weekday dinner - it only takes like 15 minutes). sage, carrots, brown butter, honey, bourbon - what could be more autumnally appropriate? nothin', that's what!
first, peel the carrots. or don't. i prefer them peeled, and if you have a good peeler it doesn't take long. you also get all the joy of watching your dogs fall over themselves to grab up the peelings, never realizing that they have like 10 stuck in their fur at any given time. let the hilarity ensue!
you can cut them up however you like, although personally i find discs to be rather kansas-city-split-level-1987, but maybe that's just me. i was going to do this faux tourné cut, but apparently i lack the basic sense of spatial relationships that this requires, so i just made ~45 degree cuts facing alternate ways down each carrot. does that make sense? the picture above is meant to demonstrate this, but you could always try the other way (particularly if your parents acceded to childhood demands for a video game system - that might give you better hand-eye coordination than i ended up with).
once they are all cut up in whatever way you figure out for yourself, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a pan big enough for all of the carrots. once the butter melts, add some small sage leaves, stirring a little to make sure they aren't sticking together. this isn't an absolute requirement, and i think the carrots would still be good without it, but the little crispy sage leaves are really pretty delicious and provide a nice counterpoint at the end.
my sage leaves got crispy just as the butter was starting to brown, which was rather perfect. you may remember brown butter from such desserts as brown butter cherry berry clafoutis. it is a delicious marvel in everything it touches, and these carrots are no exception. it adds just the right nuttiness to bring out the sweetness of the carrots and honey.
so when the butter browns and the sage leaves crisp, remove the leaves and set them aside on a paper towel or something. then add the carrots, 1 tablespoon or a little more of honey, 1 tablespoon (or more) of bourbon, a cup of water, and some salt and pepper. you don't want to totally overdo it on the salt at this point, since the water will be evaporating and might make it too salty. i put in probably less than a teaspoon. i also put some more sage in - another 5 or so leaves.
then you turn the heat to high, cover the pan, and cook those beauties on up - it only takes 10 minutes or so. stir it pretty frequently - every couple of minutes is probably a good rule of thumb. you might have to kind of see what works for you with the lid - basically you want the water to evaporate enough to make a glaze and the carrots to cook through all at the same time.
once the carrots are done enough for your taste (mine were in fairly large chunks and took 12 minutes), take them off the heat and add a couple of teaspoons or so of lemon juice and some more salt, if it needs it. this'll brighten the whole thing up.
when you're ready to eat these, sprinkle them with the fried sage leaves - they add crunch and a lightly sage-y buttery flavor that brings it all together into a perfect distillation of the holidays.
~ 1 1/2 pounds carrots (~5 large)
2 tablespoons butter
10 or so sage leaves
1 tablespoon honey (+)
1 tablespoon bourbon (+)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt & pepper
other good thanksgiving dishes:
also, pretty much any cocktail here would be good, particularly pear/ginger/lemon/bourbon. word on the street is that we will be having some kind of pear/rosemary/prosecco concoction at our festivities. i am All Sorts of excited.