12.09.2010

The Local Food Report: Dear Brussels Sprouts,

You don't have a very good reputation. I'm sure you know that. I'm sure you've heard the way kids talk about you in the lunch line, the way they snicker, the way even certain adults when they see you, grumble under their breath. But you have defenders out there, true believers. I think you should also know that.


Ed Donovan is one of them. You might have noticed him—he's the one who sits behind the table at the farmers' markets, when Tim Friary puts you up for sale at the Cape Cod Organics Stand. He spends most of his time cracking jokes, shucking corn, but most importantly, he talks you up. The other day, he called you To Die For.

The problem, he says, isn't really you. It's cooks. People who don't know how to handle you boil you or steam you or bake you and you go mushy, boring, tasteless. Or farmers' let you get too big, or pick you before the frost, and you never get that tiny, miraculous sweetness.

The right way to treat you, he says, is to pick you small. Then he says to wash you, drizzle you with olive oil and lemon, sprinkle you with salt and pepper, and crank the oven up. He roasts you at 400 for 20 or 30 minutes, until you're slightly blackened and tender and caramelized all around. Then he thanks you, admires you, and digs in.

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON, LEMON JUICE, AND PECANS

This recipe is a little bit different than Ed's (read: it has bacon in it), but the idea is the same. I've been getting local Brussels sprouts recently from Cape Cod Organics Farm, and they usually have them at Crow Farm this time of year, too.

6 strips bacon
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
freshly cracked pepper
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Fry the bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When it's cooked through, transfer it to a dishtowel to drain. Leave the fat in the pan.

Put the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and lemon juice in the pan with the bacon fat and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, and put in the oven to roast for 30 minutes, or until some of the Brussels sprouts are blackened and all are tender. Remove from the oven, and crumble the cooked bacon and the toasted pecans over top. Serve warm.

Serves 4

SAUTEED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

This is my favorite way to eat Brussels sprouts. I first discovered the merits of cooking the Brassica family in butter with cabbage, and I've found the combination produces the same sweet, mellow taste with Brussels sprouts. The oil prevents the butter from burning, allowing you to get the pan HOT.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Melt the butter with the oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot—and I mean HOT—add the Brussels sprouts and sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until they start to caramelize and some of the outer layers turn black. Pour in the white wine—it should hiss and almost disappear as it hits the pan. Sauté for a few minutes longer, until all the liquid is cooked off, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once, preferably with toast and a fried egg over easy.

Serves 4

5 comments :

patti said...

Great recipe Elsbeth. The only trouble is that my hands are as week as my feet and it took me three-quarters of an hour to open the bottle, It's a Chilen wine called La Linda. You can get it at Windmill. Worth the trouble.If you're ever at the Hay homestrad in Truro, come see me.
Patti Tetrault9Ryder Beach Road)

Elspeth said...

patti i am so glad you liked it, but so sorry to hear about your hands! we need to get you some screw top bottles. we'll be up in truro again soon enough—they'll open the house in may probably, and we'll pay you a visit, definitely.

xo E

Anonymous said...

Elspeth, I'm so pleased to see you championing Brussels sprouts! When I was a little girl, your grandmother used to cook them occasionally, and they were dreadful. They were frozen, and they made me gag. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties and had **fresh** Brussels sprouts that I discovered how delicious this vegetable is. Fresh Brussels sprouts are an entirely different creature than frozen or been-sitting-on-the-shelf-too-long Brussels sprouts. Now I can't get enough of them!

I like to trim and cut them in half, dress with a bit of olive oil, and then sear them on high high, covered. I add a little freshly grated Parmesan, a crank of sea salt, and voila, heaven on a plate. ~XO, Mama

Beth said...

We grew our own this year and enjoyed the tops and leaves as well as the sprouts! Seared Brussels sprouts are amazing, but I do blanch mine before halving and cooking them in the butter and oil.

Ken D Berry MD said...

Wow, those are some beautiful sprouts! Produce grown locally has been Proven to be more nutritious. Click my name to read on...

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.