1 cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown sugar is fine)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter , cut into pieces
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns (optional)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2- star anise (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Don’t be intimidated by this caramel. It doesn’t require any thermometers, and after you reduce the apple cider, all you do is pretty much dump everything in and let it reduce and thicken. You got this.
In a medium or large pot with high sides, reduce the apple cider to 1/4 to 1/3 cup over medium heat, stirring occasionally — about 8-10 minutes.
When it’s reduced, add the butter, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and molasses. Stir to combine until smooth. Add the minced garlic, the fresh herbs, and all of the seasonings/spices. Pour in the heavy cream.
Allow this mixture to simmer over medium heat to reduce and thicken, about
10-12 minutes, stirring often. You’re looking for a darkened and visibly thicker caramel, but not gloopy thick. When it coats your rubber spatula nicely, turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract.
The caramel will thicken even more as it stands. Let it cool slightly while you proceed with the root vegetables.
In a large baking dish, add the sweet potato and butternut squash pieces.
Drizzle with olive oil, just enough so each piece is lubricated — it shouldn’t be swimming in oil. Sprinkle evenly with a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to coat.
Remove from the oven, and drizzle with a good amount of caramel.
Gently toss to coat. Return to the oven uncovered, and let it roast for an additional 40 minutes, or until lightly charred and caramelized in spots.
Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired. Remove and discard the star anise! Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.
Cover with foil or a lid that fits your baking dish, and bake for about 30 minutes, or just until fork-tender but not mushy.