Farmers’ Market Ingredient of the Week: Brussels Sprouts
Posted August 26th, 2009 by Lindsey
Filed under: Alderwood Smoke, Bolivian Rose, brussels sprouts, Chef's Blend, Farmers' Market, Garlic Shallot, Himalayan Pink, Hot Habanero, Murray River, recipe
Mmm, brussels sprouts (not brussel sprouts, as thought by many). This poor vegetable is loathed by millions of children who are forced to choke it down before being rewarded with dessert. But this disrespected member of the cabbage family has recently been updated to celebrity status. Instead of an overly boiled staple served with equally overcooked pot roast, brussels sprouts are experiencing a renaissance. Take, for example, Iron Chef Michael Symon and his new Detroit restaurant, Roast. I could go on and on about the virtues of this fantastic, meat-centered restaurant, but this post is about the vegetables. One of the non-meat stars on Chef Symon’s menu is the fried brussels sprouts side dish. Deliciously crispy and slightly sweet, these crispy treats are well salted, almost like mini-cabbage fries.
I experienced my rebirth with brussels sprouts last Thanksgiving. The grocery store featured brussels sprouts on the stalk, and I couldn’t resist this cool looking veggies. After exhaustive research, I settled on a recipe that combined sauteed bacon, apple cider vinegar and shredded brussels sprouts. The salty bacon, combined with the sweet, cabbagey brussels sprouts and the tart and tangy cider vinegar…this will be a new, permanent fixture on the Thanksgiving table. But after Thanksgiving, I forgot about brussels sprouts. Until two weeks ago.
While strolling through the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, there they were. These perfect, tiny, green orbs. They were much smaller than the fall brussels sprouts, but they looked equally delicious. And a wonderful sauteed brussels sprout dish sounded like a great compliment to pork or chicken off the grill. I took my precious little globes of goodness home with me to experiment.
First up, sauteed. I couldn’t resist the lure of bacon. The bacon/brussels sprouts combination is so enticing. Chop two to three slices of bacon and cook until the fat has melted and the resulting bacon bits are crispy. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat behind. Start by chopping off the ends, then slicing the brussels sprouts in half from top to bottom. Lay the brussels sprouts cut side down in the pan with the bacon fat, adding olive oil if there is not enough bacon fat left for all the sprouts, and cook for three to five minutes, until the cut sides are brown and beginning to carmelize. At this point, I season generously with one of the milder salts. For me, Murray River is the go to. I love the light, flaky, texture and perfect salt flavor. It melts quickly into a dish and isn’t overpowering. Add about a cup of water to the pan, cover and cook until the brussels sprouts are tender to the tooth, but not mushy. At this point, I uncover the pan to let the rest of the water boil away, add the bacon bits back in and quickly splash of about a tablespoon of apple cider in the pan, tossing the sprouts to coat. Finish with more Murray River or Garlic Shallot for a little extra crunch (Bolivian Rose provides a delicious crunch, too!) This is such a tasty side dish, my mouth is watering.
The following week, I wanted to try something different. Both Ina Garten and Mark Bittman’s How to Eat Everything have roasted brussels sprouts recipe. Roasting is very simple and requires less attention than sauteing. This time, I started with olive oil in an oven proof pan, and again laid my brussels sprouts cut side down in the pan for three to five minutes. Once they started to carmelize, I added about five cloves of garlic and put the pan in the oven at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes. Your cooking time will vary tremendously based on the size of the brussels sprouts, but the goal is dark and crispy on the outside, tender and delicious on the inside. Salt generously with a Beyond the Shaker salt that compliments the crunch; I like Himalayan Pink or peppery Chef’s Blend. For a salty, smoky treat, Alderwood Smoke is a fantastic choice or you can spice them up with Hot Habanero. You can dress this dish up a little with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, but they are truly perfect just simple and salty.