Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stinkin' Brussels Sprouts

For the last couple of months I have been the Guest Chef Blogger on www.southsoundeats.com a great new website devoted to what's happening in the South Puget Sound area in terms of food, wine & beer. This article was originally published there.

Recently I received a number of requests for recipes featuring Brussels Sprouts, one of my favorite vegetables. We have featured them in a number of dishes but I think they work particularly well when the weather turns cold. A member of the cruciferous family, they are related to cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, and indeed resemble little baby cabbages.

When I was a kid I hated Brussels Sprouts because my Mother would always cook them to death—and like broccoli and the other cabbages—when overcooked they tend to release mustard gas--the unpleasant aroma generated when any of the cabbage family is overcooked.

Brussels Sprouts for People that Hate Brussels Sprouts

This recipe is both easy and simple. Amounts are approximate. Serves 6-8

1 lb Brussels Sprouts
2 shallots sliced thinly
2 slices apple-smoked bacon diced
Maple syrup for drizzling
1 T butter

Take some Brussels sprouts and halve them if small—quartering the larger ones so that they are roughly about the same size. Slice some shallots and toss with the sprouts. Cook a little bacon until rendered and starting to crisp.
Toss the sprouts and shallots with some of the bacon fat or olive oil, and lightly season with salt & pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 325 degrees until the Brussels sprouts are lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes or so depending on your oven.
Remove from the oven and place in a sauté pan with a little butter. When the sprouts are hot and the butter melted, drizzle and toss with a little real maple syrup.
Taste and correct the seasoning. The sprouts should taste mildly sweet from the syrup, but make sure you can taste the salt & pepper—you want to balance the flavors, and remember that the bacon adds salt as well. Too much syrup would be cloying. Enjoy.

Brussels Sprouts Leaves with Pancetta

Serves 12 or more

2 Pounds Brussels Sprouts
1/4 Cup Canola or Olive Oil (or rendered duck fat)
2 Large Carrots, diced ( approx 1 cup)
3 Large Stalks Celery, diced ( approx 1 cup)
1 Medium Onion, diced
1/4 Pound Pancetta, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Dash White Balsamic Vinegar (or other good quality white vinegar)
Breadcrumbs (optional)

1. Working with one sprout at a time, remove as many of the outer leaves as you can until you reach those firmly attached to the core. Trim the stem end, freeing more leaves, and repeat until you reach the dense center. Slice the center thinly.

2. Warm the olive oil or duck fat in a very large nonreactive saucepan. Add the carrot, celery and onion (together they make the mirepoix) and pancetta and cook over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, without browning the vegetables, until they have softened.

3. Add one-half cup water and the Brussels sprouts sprinkle with the salt and stir well to combine. Cover the pan and cook for approx. 10 minutes, stirring often until the leaves are tender. Season with a little freshly ground pepper, correct for salt and add a dash of vinegar. Sprinkle with prepared breadcrumbs if desired.

Serve while the color is still vivid.

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