How many of you thought that Brussels sprouts grew in the ground like little cabbages? Or like me, never really thought about how they grew until you were forced to consider it? Last Friday, Thomas Keller flew to Cleveland to promote Ad Hoc At Home, a paean to family-style cooking, and among the many things we talked about were ways people can improve as cooks, such as being more organized (mise en place!) and shopping better. As Thomas has always said, "If you've got better ingredients than I, then you can be a better chef." One of the ingredients he happened to mention was Brussels sprouts—eat them in season. The very next day at my farmers market, there they were. So I had to buy. Had to.
Brussels sprouts are delicious—if you cook them right. If you overcook them, they get mushy and sulferish. I like to halve them if they're big, so that the outsides don't overcook before the insides are tender, and serve them boiled and buttered. Another great way to serve them is to shave them on a mandoline and saute them (they cook really fast this way). In Michael Symon's new book, Live To Cook, they're deep-fried, then tossed with a walnut vinegrette (an awesome preparation; nuts go really well with Brussels sprouts). And in Keller's book, they're are paired with kohlrabi and butter-braised radishes for a hearty vegetable side dish.
My favorite way to cook them is to boil them—how do you know when they're done? taste them!—and shock them in ice water, then saute them in bacon fat with lardons. The below would make an awesome Thanksgiving side dish, cook the sprouts and render the bacon in the morning, finish them last minute Any way you cook them, cook them now—now's the time.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper and Pine Nuts
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
¼ pound slab bacon cut in ¼-inch lardons
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, diced
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
red wine vinegar to taste
Cook the sprouts in voluminous vigorously boiling water until tender. Drain them and plunge them into ice water till they're thoroughly chilled, then drain and hold in paper-towel lined bowl (covered and refrigerated if not cooking right away).
Cook the lardons in a large saute pan over medium low heat till the fat's rendered and they're beginning to get brown and crisp. Turn the heat to medium high, add the sprouts and cook them till they're heated through and have developed some color. Add the red pepper and pine nuts, toss to heat through, season with salt, pepper a few splashes of vinegar.