19 October 2009

The "You know I usually don't like Brussels sprouts, but I love these Brussels sprouts" Brussels sprouts dish

Many things don't make any sense to me.

Fahrenheit temperatures.
Directionals (as in North, South, West and East).
American football.
Trooper's Raise A Little Hell used to sell saltines*.
The apparently 6'3" non-cook who designed my kitchen.
Dan Brown's literary career.

For years I never understood how people can *not* like Brussels sprouts (or brussel sprouts). I mean really. They're cute and leafy. They're teeny little cabbages that grow on sticks...and we all know foods on sticks aren't just fun, but they taste better.

The first time I had Brussels sprouts they were curried--very simply done--lightly steamed and then sauteed with onions and masala. How anyone could not like that was unthinkable. A bowlful of those spicey sphere-ishes and I'd be as happy as Beanie with a turkey leg. I thought everybody liked Brussel sprouts.

Then I started hearing stories about slimey concoctions whose funk would make a grizzly bear in heat reach for the Febreeze. Tales about the little tiny cabbages boiled for an hour or so were enough to send me screaming out of a room in the same way as I would should Celine Dion magically appear, offering to sing me any stanza from her screechy songbook.

Who would ever treat such vegetably emeralds with such disdain?

When the exbf told me that one of his online followers uploaded a post about beautiful green orbs that beckoned him/her at the grocer...and then taunted him/her in the fridge because...well...he/she doesn't actually like Brussels sprouts, I knew I had to upload this post sooner rather than later.

This is the "You know, I usually don't like Brussels sprouts, but I love these Brussels sprouts" dish.

This is the dish that's won converts every time it's served to new people who theoretically don't like Brussel sprouts.

This is the dish that My Dear Little Cardamummy tries and tries again to replicate, but can't somehow do it (here's a hint: follow my instructions...but then again, she's not online so that bit of advice won't really help her)

It's a variant of my earlier dish made with sausage and potatoes, and makes good use of a leftover boiled potato or two. It's not an incredibly labour-intensive dish. Really: sitting at a table discarding yellowed leaves and slashing the stem ends really isn't onerous and allows for a good think or chat. Frying bacon and potatoes...that's nothing. And the veggies just steam themselves.

Even though you can make with two pots -- one to steam the veggies and one to do up the bacon and potatoes -- I do the entire dish in one vessel (my wok, to be specific). The trick to this dish is to not over cook the sprouts. Apparently this is easier said than done. The embryonic cabbages should be a bright green and still firm to the tooth with a little bit of give...I suppose slightly crunchy, but not squeaky, if you get the nuances. Once the leaves yield too easily to the tooth, you know you've cooked a bit too far.

Brussels Sprouts with bacon and potatoes
serves 4-6

500g Brussels sprouts
3-4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
cooking fat (butter, oil, bacon fat)
300-400g cubed potatoes, steamed or boiled and cooled
1-2 cloves minced garlic
Black pepper
1 onion, julienned
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
Chilli pepper flakes (optional).

Clean and trim the sprouts by removing any yellowed outer leaves and slashing an "x" the stem end (if the sprouts are small) or slicing in half (if they are large).

Fry the bacon until crispy. Remove the bits, leaving the fat in the pan.

Tip in the potatoes (in batches, if necessary), adding more fat if necessary. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Fry until browned and crispy and remove.

Pour about 60ml (quarter cup) of water with a healthy pinch or two of salt into the pan. Tumble in the prepared sprouts, cover and let steam for a few minutes until the sprouts are vibrant and barely cooked. Drain the water and add the cooked bacon and potato-onion mixture.

Pour in the balsamic vinegar and a splash or two or three of Worcestershire sauce and give everything a good stir. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding chilli flakes if desired.


I'm a quill for hire!

*Really. What part of this song says "crumbling crackers in soup is a rebellious and uber-kewl thing to do"?

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Conor @ HoldtheBeef said...

I LOVE brussel sprouts and lately have been eating them almost every day. Despite the excellent example I've been setting, my housemate is a non-believer. I think I may need to put your recipe to the test.

Anonymous said...

Back when I could cook, my version of this was an oval pyrex covered dish with a non-bone pork chop in it. Brussel sprouts were arranged around the pork chop with their thick ends out, and I put butter and dill on top. Cooked for 20 minutes at 350F and usually ate with spaetzle. The brussels sprouts had just enough bite and the dill gave both the pork chop and sprouts good flavor.

aethelred said...

Here's the thing I like to do with brussels sprouts.

Get little ones - 1-1.5 cm across. Bigger ones have all the culinary appeal of ping-pong balls. Yes, I've been known to pick through the entire bucket at the market - because the little ones are really delicious.

Split them in half lengthwise.

Put some butter in a stainless-steel pan on really high heat. Put in some nice salty capers. (Not vinegary, and you should rinse them so they aren't too too salty). Let it just begin to burn.

Put in the sprouts. Brown them on the outside a bit. This will take a few minutes.


NKP said...

I do love brussels sprouts - I love your recipe!
Some of the song picks for commercials are puzzling - and I am wondering why Cat Stevens is on a telecommunications commercial. Isn't he against that sort of stuff?

Q. said...

My mom never ever served brussel sprouts when we were growing up. Her mom made them by boiling them in water. No seasoning. Ew. She likes them now that my sister and I have discovered how to make them taste GOOD! Yours look amazing. And I don't understand Dan Brown's literary career either.

kamran siddiqi said...

I actually like brussel sprouts and this dish is on my "to make" list. Lovely post! :)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I'm not really into brussels sprouts but like what you did.

muzzyblue said...

I have loved Brussels sprouts since I first tried them as a child. This recipe looks really delicious.

And I don't understand euchre either!