Roy Choi is a legend in LA. He was the guy who started Kogi Taco, which then kicked off the food truck craze, then the Korean fusion craze, and so on, and so forth. His latest creation is a series of restaurants inside the new Line Hotel in K-town. And true to Roy Choi form, he's giving us something to talk about.
I recently got lunch at Commissary, his airy rooftop terrarium of veggie-focused dishes with cryptic one-word names. When you ask the waiter to expound on "Beets," he gives a simpering smile and asks that you trust the chef. When you tell the waiter you have a lactose allergy, he gives you a withering smile and begrudgingly discloses that the "Corn" is covered with cheese. And when you ask what's in the "Clams," you get a glowing smile and an assurance that you'll love it, no matter what's in it, and perhaps it's time to shut up and just order and trust the chef, OK?
This is HELL for a food nerd. As someone who hasn't gone out to eat in a while, every dish takes on a whole new level of gravity - what if the "Tomatoes" are better than the "Radishes"? How will I know when this waiter refuses to tell me anything more than how amaaazing everything will taste?
Luckily, with no extra details to sway me, I decided to order "Carrots" that day.
Carrots indeed. Wood-fire roasted carrots with a spicy, tart, spicy green sauce that begged some explanation. "What's in the carrot sauce?" I asked our waiter. He sighed, then gave me a forced smile and urged me to trust the chef. "No, but seriously, I need to know what's on these carrots" I implored. "Tomatillos," he finally muttered, eyes darting nervously about in case some other irritatingly curious diner was eavesdropping.
My version combines tomatillos with chile and cilantro, a variation on chimichurri that works surprisingly well with sweetly roasted carrots. I have no idea if I'm even close to what Roy Choi is dishing out on that gorgeous rooftop... but I'm willing to bet I'm close.
Commissary's Carrots with Spicy Tomatillo Sauce
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 50 min Total Time: 1 hour
8-10 tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 large onion, peeled and cut in half
2 large garlic cloves, peels on
1 serrano chile, deseeded
1 ancho chile, deseeded (or any other hot green chile)
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb / 450 g carrots, as thin as you can find, stems removed
1/2 bunch cilantro, thicker stems removed
3 Tbs water
micro-greens for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F / 200C. Line a baking tray with tinfoil or parchment paper. Scatter tomatillos, onion, garlic and chiles on pan. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over olive oil, and toss gently to coat veggies with 1 Tbs oil. Roast for 25 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile, wash your carrots and peel them if they have thicker, rougher skins. If carrots are thick (1" or more), half them and cut the wider ends in half lengthwise, so all the pieces are about the same width.
Once tomatillos are roasted, remove from oven and turn heat to 425F / 220C. Peel skins from softened garlic. Place tomatillos, garlic, onion and peppers in a blender or food processor.
Throw away pan lining and re-line with more tinfoil or parchment paper. Scatter carrots on pan and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining Tbs oil and toss to combine. Roast carrots for 20-25 minutes, depending on thickness. Tips should be blackened and skin blistered, with a tender interior. A nice dark roast is critical for flavor, so leave them in if they're looking pale.
While carrots roast, add cilantro, water and lime juice to food processor. Blend the sauce til smooth. Add a touch more water if the sauce is too thick. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, pour some green sauce onto a platter and top with roasted carrots and micro-greens.