Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sautéing brings out flavor of Brussels sprouts

Here's my first Athens Banner-Herald column of the new year.

Le Gourmet Fauche

Athens Banner-Herald

Published Wednesday, January 05, 2011

That classical winter vegetable, the Brussels sprout, is beloved to many and reviled by others. As with other vegetables exhibiting real character - such as eggplant, okra, fennel and endive - Brussels sprouts fit the cliché of "an acquired taste." I love them.

Although dreary if overcooked and gone gray, when handled well they are delightful. Their mild bitterness can be balanced by the tartness of apple or a little vinegar, or mellowed by cream or butter. The cook's challenge is to get the texture, color and nutty flavor right. Fortunately, that's not too difficult.

A fascinating plant, the Brussels sprout's tall stalk is studded throughout its length with sprouts resembling baby cabbages (which is what my kids used to call them), and is topped with a plume of kale-like leaves. The sprouts are members of the Brassica, or mustard, family and are an exotic variant of the same species as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.

Named for Belgium's major city, these sprouts have been cultivated for centuries in North-Central Europe, though they were known to the ancient Romans. The city name applies not only in English, but also in French (choux de Bruxelles), the principal language of Brussels, and in Flemish (Brusselse spruitjes), the language of the surrounding countryside.

With their hearty flavor, Brussels sprouts hold up to vigorous culinary treatment. They pair well with robust meat or vegetarian fare, but would overpower delicate dishes.

The most familiar style is boiling them whole and salting, peppering and either buttering them or drenching them with heavy cream. Alternatively, boiled sprouts can be marinated like artichoke hearts or caramelized by frying in butter or, in Belgium, goose fat. They also can be puréed and seasoned with nutmeg and butter.

If the raw sprouts are shredded or their leaves are plucked off, the vegetable can be sautéed. Raw shredded sprouts make a hearty slaw-like salad or even a Thai-style salad. Recently, I've been sautéing shredded sprouts with a little onion and finishing them with cream or Balsamic vinegar. Here are these two variants, differing only in terms of what's stirred in at the end.

Either style makes a good side dish to strong-flavored meats or part of a vegetable plate. An alternative trick is to cook several smoked sausages, or previously fried savory meatballs, on top of the shredded sprouts to make a savory one-pot main dish.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Cream or Balsamic Vinegar

1 pound Brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion

4 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Moderate sprinkle of black pepper

Small pinch grated nutmeg (optional)


Either 4 tablespoons light to heavy cream or 1 1/2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar

Cut off bottom 1/4-inch of stem from sprouts. Cut sprouts in half, then slice 1/8-inch thick, or put trimmed sprouts through 2mm shredding blade of a food processor.

Mince shallot or onion and add them to pot with oil. Heat over medium burner until just starting to sizzle. Add sliced sprouts, salt and spices. Stir frequently and fry just until beginning to turn golden.

Add 4 tablespoons water, and stir to moisten. Cover, and let sprouts simmer, stirring frequently, until they become tender, but still are green (total of 8-10 minutes). Stir in cream or vinegar. If too dry, moisten with a little water. Bring just back to a simmer and remove from heat. Add salt if needed.


Blogger ModaresiBeal said...

Great recipe. Can't wait to make this easy and healthy dish.

7:28 PM  

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