Sunday, August 08, 2010

Brussel Sprouts: A Trio of Recipes

Brussels sprouts are one of those kitchen items, like anchovies, fish sauce and cilantro, that conjure strong feelings on both sides of the aisle. When I was growing up in the '60s, I hated them. We didn't have them often, but like Lima beans, when we saw them on our nightly blue plate, they sent waves of dread through the souls of my little sister and me. They were always cooked from frozen until soft and mushy, buttered, salted and that's it. I am now enlightened! Properly cooked Brussels sprouts are an autumn treat. I have taught my kids to get excited about them, and when purchased from a farm stand on a stalk, they are often the star of the meal!

Remember that strong and bitter green vegetables can handle more salt than delicate veggies. This trio of recipes really showcases that.

Garlic Walnut Brussels Sprouts

This dish used quartered sprouts with lots of garlic. This gives them a balanced, firm-yet-tender texture. They are great with pork and rich skin on poultry preparations.

Serves 4 as a side

1 pound fresh, medium-to-large sized Brussels sprouts
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup walnuts, chopped small
1/4 stick butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly minced
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Put on a pot of salted water big enough to hold the Brussels sprouts.

Prepare the sprouts by trimming off any dry or loose leaves. Cut the brown end off the stem to expose the white core of the stem. Cut in quarters lengthwise.

This is about timing and fun cooking. Is everything prepped? (The sprouts need to blanch for two minutes to get cooking.) Good. Now go!

Drop the sprouts in the boiling water.

Heat a big heavy skillet on the stove on medium-high heat. Add the butter to the skillet. When the butter foams, add the garlic and walnuts and turn the pan to high.

Once the garlic begins to get golden, turn of the heat under the pan. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer and begin to remove the brussels sprouts from the water and carefully add them to the hot butter. When they are all in the pan, crank the heat back up and swirl the pan to coat with those Brussels with the hot garlic-walnut butter. Salt and pepper generously, and let cook to absorb any water that followed the sprouts into the pan. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves, roll around to coat one more time and serve hot.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions

This is a simple stir fry, utilizing the smokey bacon and sweet onions to accent the earthiness of the Brussels sprouts. This dish should be served immediately after cooking, to keep the vibrant color and texture of the sprouts intact. It is particularly good paired with trout, chicken and turkey dishes.

Serves 4 as a side

4 ounces good quality smoked bacon, sliced against the grain into thin strips
1 large Spanish onion, quartered and sliced thinly
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
a few fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
water or stock as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the stems from the Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise. Now slice, almost shave, crosswise very thinly. This is called a chiffonade.

Heat a heavy skillet or stainless wok to medium heat. Add the bacon and the oil. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is browned and crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the onions to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they begin to caramelize. 

When the onions are fully amber colored, prepare to add the Brussels sprouts. If you are using the sage, add it now. Add the Brussels and turn up the heat. Stir from the bottom up while cooking until the sprouts begin to soften. When they're bright green and shiny, add the cider vinegar and let cook another two minutes. Add a few drops of water or stock, stir well, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, garnished with the reserved bacon.

This dish can be made vegetarian by simply omitting the bacon and increasing amount of the oil just a bit. There are vegan bacon substitutes available that can be added at the last minute to generate the smokiness that the bacon gives to the dish.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted, caramelized, luscious!

Some sprouts are wound tighter than others, so the roasting time my vary depending upon the particular batch of sprouts you are cooking. Make sure they are lightly browned, but not black, or you will have bitter sprouts.

Because of the vinegar, this dish pairs well with red meats, venison, beef and lamb. It is also good served family style with hearty salmon preparations.

Serves 4

1 pound medium Brussels sprouts
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 medium shallots, cut in half
6 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prepare Brussels sprouts by trimming off any dry or loose leaves. Cut off brown end off of the stem to expose the white core of the stem. Cut an "X" into the bottom of the core of the stem, about 2 or three millimeters deep.

In a mixing bowl, toss all ingredients to coat well. Let marinate at least 15 minutes or up to an hour.

Put everything in a roasting pan and loosely cover with parchment paper or foil. Bake about 30 minutes, then check the sprouts. They will begin to soften and become golden. Poke a big one with a skewer or toothpick. It should be tender. If they need a little more time, let it happen. When they are just tender, remove the covering and allow to cook 10 more minutes until lightly browned. They should be very tender when done. 

Serve them right in the roasting dish and make sure everyone gets a piece of shallot and a clove of garlic.
Summer Salsa recioes posted on my pal Dakota Lanes Blog

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