With Thanksgiving coming up so soon, I started thinking about what kinds of dishes I could make for the occasion, specifically sides and desserts (in my opinion, the most fun parts). Two Thanksgivings ago, I discovered my love for brussels sprouts. Before that day, I never tried a brussels sprout in my life, if you can believe it. My sister and I roasted them whole, with olive oil, salt and pepper. I loved the explosion of flavor as you popped them in your mouth and bit into them, a very earthy and rich flavor with some crisped up bits on the outside. Even more recently, I saw what they look like on the stalk--alien-like, even! How could so many people dislike such a great vegetable?
Turns out that most people overcook them and, as Russ Parsons describes, they are "high in chemical compounds that produce hydrogen sulfide when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time." What's so bad about hydrogen sulfide? Wikipedia responds: "Hydrogen sulfide is the principal odor of untreated sewage and is one of several unpleasant smelling sulfur-containing components of flatulence." Hmm, so now I see the potential downside of brussels sprouts...
But! If you cook them correctly, they will be a delicious side to your Thanksgiving meal. I riffed on this recipe for brussels sprouts lardons, also imparting some wisdom from Parsons on how best not to produce excess hydrogen sulfide. P.S. "Lardons" refers to the pancetta in the recipe (although actually it is supposed to be straight-up fat) used to flavor the brussels sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts Lardons with Cherries and Walnuts
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved and with small cut down the middle of stalk
1/2 c dried cherries
1/4 c chopped walnuts
2 oz pancetta (or bacon), cubed
1/2 c low-sodium vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
What a simple recipe, and the components went together really well--the earthiness of the sprouts and the saltiness of the pancetta, along with the sweet-tart cherries and crunchy walnuts for texture. I also enjoyed this method of cooking brussels sprouts, as a good alternative to my usual roasting method.
- Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat, then add pancetta. Allow to cook until browned and crisp, then turn off heat and remove pancetta only (keeping the leftover oil and fat in the pan).
- Reheat pan over medium heat and add brussels sprout halves, stalk-side down. Cook for 8-10 minutes, then add stock to pan and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until stalk has become slightly tender.
- Then toss sprouts around for a few more minutes and add cherries, walnuts and pancetta. Cook until all components have evenly been heated, and the cherries have absorbed some liquid.
- Salt and pepper to taste, then serve!
Next up: Another festive dish!