Normally, the name Tim Love is synonymous with meat.
After all, this is the Texan who holds grilling demos for 400 people at the Austin Food + Wine Festival. Whose Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Austin (one of five restos he has in Texas) lists wild game fettine, elk and South Texas antelope carpaccio among its offerings. And who goes hunting with his 12-year-old twin daughters.
But he's at our Test Kitchen making . . . carrots? Yep. Burnt carrots, no less (see the recipe).
"The first time I learned about burnt food was onion brûlée, so I started exploring the burn of the food and doing different things. People don't want toast that's completely burned on one side, but they want the acidic burnt flavor of grilled toast," Love tells us as he puts thick-sliced carrots under a 500-degree broiler. It's a dish that is actually the result of a little too much pink wine.
"I was cooking for a party at [Kings of Leon drummer] Nathan Followill's house at Music City Food + Wine, and, of course, drank a lot of rosé all day," Love says with a laugh. "I forgot about the carrots and had to figure out what to do with them—and it ended up being the most popular dish of the night."
We can see why: The just-out-of-the-oven charred carrots are tossed with triple-crème Brie, which melts ever so slightly, as well as peanut oil, honey, lemon juice and chile flakes. Love doesn't peel the carrots, so the outsides become crisp and blackened—but the vegetable still has some nice chew to it.
"You know you've gone too far if the vegetable doesn't smell like the vegetable anymore," Love says. "When you smell nothing but the burn, you're in the wrong spot."
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Love, who's also a cohost of the show Restaurant Startup and is opening a Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Knoxville, Tennessee, doesn't make cooking overwrought—and this dish's breezy combinations are a perfect example.
"Look, we cook because we want to sit down with friends and family and drink wine and enjoy ourselves—and if you take that part out of it, you're not going to have great food," he says. "Just make the food and make it the way it feels best to you."
Even if it means learning to love the burn.