Friday, August 11, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #45

Weekend Herb Blogging is back home with Kalyn and this week I'll be showering some attention upon the much maligned and unloved Brussels Sprout.


I feel so sorry for the poor Sprout - be they called Brussel Sprout or Brussels Sprout - in a survey in 2002, they were ranked as the most hated vegetable in Britain. I lay that hatred squarely on the way the Brits cook them or should I say sacrifice them. They boil them until they turn grey and lose all texture and then plop them onto a plate, the sulphurous aromas spewing forth causing diners to pass out.

Don't blame the sprout - blame the cook!

The main problem, as with all members of the brassica family, is overboiling. There are many ways in which to show some love to the humble Brussels sprout.

First, when it comes to choosing, smaller is better. They need to be a vibrant green and feel solid between your fingers. If they are yellowed and feel soft, pass them by.

Prepare by simply slicing a bit of the stem (just like you do with cut flowers) and removing the rougher looking outer leaves. I don't bother with cutting an x into the stem.

When boiling, use lots of water and don't use a lid. Why? Because of the chemical reaction between the acid in water and the chlorophyll in the sprouts. Using lots of water dilutes the acids and keeping the lid off, ensures that the acids can escape. This will help the sprouts stay green. If I was boiling baby sprouts then I would cook them whole and cook only until they have slightly softened, at most 5 minutes. If they are larger I will cut them in half and boil for just under 5 minutes. I always taste test during cooking and drain them straight away. Don't let them sit in the hot water.

The simplest way of then serving the sprouts was to quickly sauté them in mix of olive oil and browned butter - cooking only until the cut side begins to crisp. That's exactly the way my mother cooked them and the way I've done them.

Recently I've noticed a trend of cooking that takes out the step of boiling. The sprouts are shredded and then sautéed just as you would a cabbage - sounds pretty obvious doesn't it?

This version is an amalgam of many recipes that seem to be around - I've used Kaiserfleish which is a smoked pork belly along with red onion and a little garlic - these are flavours I've used with cabbage and they also work well with the Brussels Sprouts.


Brussels Sprouts with Kaiserfleisch & Red Onion

8 medium sized Brussels sprouts, shredded
1 thick slice Kaiserfleisch (you can substitute pancetta, speck or bacon or even leave it out)
1 medium red onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
freshly ground pepper
grated Parmigiano, to serve

Heat up a non-stick frying pan, add a little olive oil and a knob of butter and sauté the Kaiserfleish over a medium-low heat. I start with this because I want to extract all that smoky flavour and get it to begin to crisp up. Add the onions and continue, stirring often. When the onions have softened and started to change colour, add the sliced garlic. Toss this through the mix, being careful not to burn the garlic as that will make it bitter.

After a minute add in the shredded sprouts and continue to stir through. Turn up the heat a little and treat it almost like a stir-fry. When the sprouts have started to wilt, add a little water, it should sizzle when it hits the pan. While stirring, collect any of the crispy remnants in the pan.

The result you are looking for is a softening of the sprouts but with their colour still intact. This should only take 2-3 minutes. Always taste and as soon as they are done, remove from the heat, grind over with pepper and stir through a little grated Parmigiano.

Turn this out onto a serving dish and sprinkle over with a little more Parmigiano. This is a really nice companion to grilled meats.

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  1. This sounds really yummy. I love your first photo with the green brussels sprouts on the yellow background. Just wonderful. I like brussels sprouts quite well, but I confess, I hardly ever cook them. Bookmarking this to try it!

  2. Brussel sprouts are also quite tasty when you toss them in a maple syrup vinegraite...

  3. I love brussel sprouts but I do agree with don't hate the sprout but the person who cooks them. I have some really bad sprouts in my day thanks to my grandma(sorry grandma). This looks yummy.

  4. Thanks Kalyn - look forward to seeing your version - this is something that can be done with cabbage when it's not brussels sprout season.

    That sounds delicious Brilynn.

    Thanks Peabody - good to see that there are sprout lovers out there!

  5. Isn't that weird with water being acid. Water should have a neutral PH, but out of the tap it doesn't come that way, just slightly acid.

    I am not a sprout hater, yours look great!

  6. Thanks Neil - don't you find that neutral ph water tastes a bit "dead"?

  7. I love Brussels.

    I will try the recipe for sure.

  8. Welcome Coffeepot - another friend of the humble Brussels Sprout!

  9. I am trying to grow Brussels sprouts in my garden again this year and I definitely want to try your recipe. You are so right about being careful not to overcook them. They taste so much better when they've still got a bit of crunch.

  10. What a delightful way to serve a much maligned vegetable. Photos are gorgeous too!

  11. Hi Christa - hope those Brussels grow for you and you are right, they are best with a bit of crunch!

    Hi Ruth - thanks so much!


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