Seasonal pantry: Brussels sprouts best served sautéed, roasted
There has been a lot of talk this fall about Brussels sprouts, with variations of certain recipes - Brussels sprouts gratin is the one I've seen most frequently - popping up all over social media. Many of these recipes suggest steaming or boiling the sprouts, techniques I don't recommend because they tend to heighten flavors many of us, myself included, find objectionable. A sulphuric characteristic seems to blossom with both of these methods.
Growing up, I didn't care for Brussels sprouts, which were either canned or frozen. Now I love them, but only if they are raw, sautéed or roasted.
The best Brussels sprouts are the ones still attached to their stalks. At this time of year, you can almost always find them at our farmers markets. Local grocery stores, such as Oliver's Markets and Andy's Produce, offer them, too.
One of the best ways to learn to enjoy this vegetable is time-consuming but worth it. It is something you can do while watching TV or sitting outside, weather permitting, and watching your neighborhood birds. (I like to scatter peanuts, still in their shells, for the local crows, then watch as they carefully scope out the situation to ensure it's safe to snag a peanut or two.) Use a small paring knife to remove the little core of the sprout, just as you would cut out the large core of a cabbage. After you've taken out all the cores, hold a sprout between your thumb and forefinger and press gently to encourage the leaves to separate.
It is not difficult, but it does take time. It can be a mesmerizing process, too, especially if the crows cooperate. I love to watch them test how many peanuts they can carry and still be able to achieve lift off. They always seem a tad annoyed when they have to drop one.
The secret to this salad is to slice the Brussels sprouts as thinly as possible. If you are not good with a knife (which should be very sharp), use the small slicing blade of a food processor or the slicing blade of a mandoline.
Because the sprouts are intensely flavored, Parmigiano-Reggiano is probably the best cheese to pair them with, though one of our local cheeses will work well, too.
Brussels Sprouts & Hazelnut Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
- Kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or best-quality olive oil
- Black pepper in a mill
3 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Vella Dry Jack or Estero Gold
3 tablespoons shelled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Slice the Brussels sprouts as thinly as possible. The best way to do this is in a food processor fitted with its thinnest slicing blade. If you slice them on a mandoline be sure to use the guard so you don't cut a finger.
Put the sliced sprouts into a bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss gently. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, toss again and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl, stir to blend and stir in the olive oil and several very generous turns of black pepper.
Pour the dressing over the Brussels sprouts and toss gently. Add the cheese and the hazelnuts, toss again and transfer to a serving dish.
Enjoy right away.
Pancetta, bacon and butter flatter Brussels sprouts, highlighting their pleasing earthiness. When the leaves are separated, as they are in this recipe, they cook evenly and don't develop one of the stronger flavors that many people find disagreeable.
Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta & Mushrooms
Makes 4 servings
- Kosher salt
10 ounces orecchiette
- Olive oil
4 cups Brussels sprout leaves (see note below)
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into small dice
1 shallot, minced
4 ounces specialty mushrooms, cleaned
1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and black pepper in a mill
Fill a large pot two-thirds full with water, season it with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta, stir well and cook according to package directions, until just done.
Drain thoroughly but do not rinse. Tip the pasta into a wide serving bowl, toss with a generous splash of olive oil, cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, if using pancetta, pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add the pancetta and cook until it loses its raw look. If using bacon, cook it until it is just barely crisp, then drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Add the shallot and mushrooms and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the Brussels sprout leaves and sauté, turning and tossing constantly, until they are wilted and tender. Add the cream, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer 4 minutes.