Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Shout Out

I'd like to give a shout out to my new friend Brussels sprouts.

You may know him and probably think he's pretty bitter and down right torturous to eat. I have to admit I had the same opinion of him, but after I got a chance to know him in several different dishes I can attest he's actually very sweet and tasty. Sometimes people showcase him in ways that just don't suit him (i.e. boiling to the point of turning his vibrant green leaves to gray) and even make him smell like dirty socks.

For whatever reason, Brussels didn't show up much at our house when I was growing up. Over Christmas, I was dining at this amazing restaurant in Savannah with my parents and was finally properly introduced to him. I had this beautifully prepared flounder which sat on a velvety parsnip puree with roasted vegetables. It was divine with the fish practically melting in your mouth, but my first bite of the vegetables almost stopped me in my tracks. I began deconstructing the dish so I could get a closer look at what caught my attention. Low and behold, it was Brussels — all caramelized and toasty with bits of apple smoked bacon clinging to him. It was essentially Brussels dressed up and looking smokin' hot ready for a night out on the town, versus Brussels in a tacky spandex jumpsuit three sizes too small. Sadly, I think people mostly see Brussels in the latter fashion faux pas and therefore don't get too excited about inviting him to dinner.

But I must implore you to do just that: Have him for dinner. For one, he plays well with others, like cheese, butter, pork products, shallots, nuts, and so on. Secondly, he's down right cute, pimping his mini cabbage body. Thirdly, he's quite a chameleon, manifesting himself as nutty, sweet, tender, and crispy. And lastly (if you're still not convinced), he's super healthy, packed with mega nutrients and recognized as a serious cancer fighter.

If you're not quite ready to present him front and center with a meal, at least shake his hand with this truly delicious appetizer. I brought it to a friend's house on Saturday and everyone was shocked to find out they were devouring brussels sprouts underneath all the gooey cheese. The smokiness from the paprika, sweetness from the onions and the nuttiness from the brussels sprouts creates a bite layered with complex yet harmonious flavors.

It won't be long before you're calling Brussels your BFF.

Brussels Sprouts and Smoky Onions on Cheddar Crostini
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 lb brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, lengthwise
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 oz chopped pancetta
1 large onion, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Multi-grain baguette
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sliced brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with Tbsp olive oil. Add diced pancetta and mix to coat and lay in a single layer on the baking sheet. Pop in the over for about 30 minutes or until brussels sprouts are tender and starting to brown.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, stir, cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add a bit of water if the onion dries out.
Add the roasted brussels sprouts to the skillet and heat throughout, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and toast slices of wheat bread for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over, mounding some of the brussels sprouts mixture on each slice. Top each slice with some grated cheese and bake until melted, approximately 5 minutes.


  1. Great timing...I just finished eating a bowl of steamed brussels sprouts for dinner when I clicked on your column. This app looks delicious!