How to maximize beets’ sweet, earthy flavour without mess

By America’S Test Kitchen The Associated Press

We sought a streamlined stovetop recipe for beets that maximized their sweet, earthy flavour—with minimal mess.
Braising worked perfectly. We partially submerged the beets in just 1 1/4 cups of water so that they partially simmered and partially steamed. Halving the beets cut down our cooking time.
In just 45 minutes, the beets were tender and their skins slipped off easily. We reduced the braising liquid and added brown sugar and vinegar to make a glossy glaze. Shallot, toasted almonds, fresh mint and thyme, and a little lemon zest finished the dish. Look for beets that are 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
You can use an 11-inch straight-sided saute pan in place of the Dutch oven in this recipe. The beets can be served warm or at room temperature. If serving at room temperature, add the nuts (or seeds, if making the variation with lime and pepitas) and fresh herbs right before serving.
Servings: 6
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
1 1/2 pounds beets, trimmed and halved horizontally
1 1/4 cups water
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Place beets, cut side down, in single layer in Dutch oven. Add water and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beets are tender and can be easily pierced with paring knife, 45 to 50 minutes.
Transfer beets to cutting board to cool slightly. Meanwhile, increase heat to medium-high and reduce cooking liquid, stirring occasionally, until pan is almost dry, 5 to 6 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar, return to boil, and cook, stirring constantly with heat-resistant spatula, until spatula leaves wide trail when dragged through glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
Once beets are cool enough to handle, rub off skins with paper towels and cut into 1/2 inch wedges. Add beets, shallot, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to glaze and toss to coat. Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with almonds, mint, and thyme, and serve.
Braised Beets with Lime and Pepitas
Omit thyme. Substitute lime zest for lemon zest, toasted pepitas for almonds, and cilantro for mint.
Braised Beets with Orange and Walnuts
Substitute orange zest for lemon zest, walnuts for almonds, and parsley for mint.