Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 In my effort to expand my vegetable repertoire, I have found a number of lovely new friends. You've already met cauliflower, who may, in fact, be my soul mate. Brussels sprouts are also on this list.

This shouldn't have come as a surprise to me. My mom loves them and cooked them for many a holiday gathering. Back then I was ambivalent. One again, it took the right preparation to make me see the light. In one of Rachel Ray's cookbooks, I found a recipe for Bacon-Cranberry Brussels Sprouts. Even Jeff (who had been a skeptic) thought they were delicious, despite being made with frozen sprouts. When I discovered the fresh specimens lurking in the vegetable aisle and tried them out, we were really hooked. 

Brussels sprouts are also really cool. I learned this at Trader Joe's last fall, when I saw them being sold on the stalk (before this, I hadn't a clue how they were grown). When I saw stalks of Brussels sprouts come out at the farmers' market a few weeks ago, I knew I had to try them this way.

One of my personal crusades is to reduce the amount of trash I produce. This means I refuse plastic bags as often as possible (even if I don't have my reusable bags, I have two hands and a large purse). This also means I shop for things with the least amount of packaging I can find. My supermarket sells pre-cut butternut squash in plastic containers covered in saran wrap - something I don't really understand. While it is a bit of a chore to cut the rind off, but it is cheaper and better for the environment. The squash goes in my belly and the rind goes into my compost bin, which will support next year's vegetable garden. No waste at all. So Brussels sprouts on the stalk was perfect for me. No more paper container with plastic rubber-banded to the top. Like breaking down squash, it was a bit of work. Each sprout needs to be hacked off the stalk individually. The product was also a mixed bag - mostly really small sprouts, a few supermarket-sized ones, and a bunch of scraggly-looking bits at the bottom. I learned quickly, however, that beneath the scraggly-looking outer leaves were usually perfectly good sprouts. I got much more product than I expected for my $2 - I filled the silver bowl in the picture below. I'd say I got more than in a normal supermarket package. And the stalk? It went to my compost heap to join the rest of the nutrient-rich melange destined for next summer's produce.

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. I think this was one of last year's Thanksgiving recipes.

2 lbs Brussels sprouts, halved
1 tbsp rice oil or olive oil
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped small (I chopped the onion and garlic together in the food processor)
3 tbsp butter
1/2 bunch fresh thyme (About 10 sprigs - my picture doesn't show nearly enough. I went back to the garden and got more after I read the recipe more closely.)
1 large sprig rosemary, halved
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar  (I don't drink, so I found that the sherry didn't have enough time to cook off for my liking, so I went for an even better-tasting option: citrus-flavored balsamic vinegar.)

In a large saucepan, cook the sprouts in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. (I skipped this step this time around. Drying the sprouts takes time, and if they're not fully dry, the oil splatters. I felt that I could skip it, especially because most of my sprouts were really small. Unfortunately, I was incorrect. Even with a much longer cooking time, some of the sprouts were a bit on the raw side. So I would definitely recommend blanching them according to the original recipe's instructions. In the future, I know I won't cut this corner again.)

Heat a large, flat-bottomed pan on high for 1-2 minutes. Add the oil, garlic and onion. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add half the butter. Turn heat to medium-high. Arrange half the sprouts cut-side down in the pan. Add half the rosemary, thyme and salt. Cook 3-4 minutes until browned. Remove from heat and repeat with the other half of the sprouts. When they are done, return everything to the skillet and add sherry/vinegar. (I let mine cook a bit longer together, both because I neglected the blanching step and because I wanted the flavor of the vinegar to really meld with everything else.) Toss until well-combined and serve.

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