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Culinary Spotlight: A Child’s Nemesis, A Chef’s Favorite

Photo by Hillary Ehlen

Most folks have a childhood memory of Brussel sprouts that may be less than positive. As an adult, however, hopefully, most of us have found an appreciation for them. Brussel sprouts have a unique flavor profile but still have a sponge-like quality in that they will soak up other flavors like butter, garlic and bacon. With a little understanding of proper cooking technique and good flavor pairing, Brussel sprouts can play a successful role in any winter menu.

The biggest complaint is typically the smell of Brussel sprouts. Cooking them at a relatively high level of heat and for a relatively short period of time should help keep the smell from overtaking the entire kitchen, especially if you’re cooking them with a little whole butter or maybe some bacon or duck fat. Another method for reducing the aroma factor is to blanch them in salted water and shock them in ice water before finishing them.

A dinner guest may dislike Brussel sprouts simply because of their texture. The best way to combat this complaint is to shave them and quickly sauté them or simply marinate them for a salad. Or, you could pick the leaves apart before cooking, which will provide a far more delicate texture. Whole or halved Brussel sprouts produce a texture profile that isn’t for everyone.

Sometimes simply slicing a food item more thinly can transform the mouthfeel and overall dining experience completely. Brussel sprouts are a great addition to any menu this time of year. They can stand up to a number of different flavors so get creative with them. Just remember that proper cooking technique, as with most foods, will determine how well your guests will receive them.

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Pomegranate and Parmesan

SERVES 6-12
Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Brussel sprouts, trimmed & halved
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. garlic, fresh minced
  • Pancetta bacon, crispy to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

In a large saute pan, heat oil to medium-high and place Brussel sprouts in the pan with the flat cut surface down. Season with salt and pepper, melt the butter into the pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to medium and check regularly so that they caramelize uniformly but do not burn. The steam produced from the pan should cook the Brussel sprouts throughout within approximately five minutes.

Once they are uniformly caramelized, add the balsamic, brown sugar and garlic to create a glaze. You may need to adjust the amount of butter in order to do this. Use your best judgment.

Place the Brussel sprouts on a plate and garnish with crumbled pancetta bacon, pomegranate seeds and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Written by Eric Watson

Eric Watson is a monthly contributor for Fargo Monthly. He is the owner
of Rustica and Mosaic Foods in Fargo, and is also the founder and president of the Fargo branch of the American Culinary Federation.

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