I’m a late bloomer when it comes to Brussels sprouts love. It’s not that I hated the stuff (as I was always told I should), I just never had it before. Then I moved to SF two years ago and with the coming of my first Thanksgiving here, was flooded with recipes by adoring fooderati who worshipped the sprout with the bad rap.
I don’t really get why Brussels sprouts got such a reputation to begin with. They seem harmless enough. Cute in fact. And if you happen to see them on the stalk still, those bright green clusters are downright gorgeous. Looks aside, they are tasty!
My intro to Brussels sprouts adoration started off nice and easy, with generous bits of bacon or pancetta added to grease the wheel. More recently however, I have witnessed two distinctive preparations of this fascinatingly polarizing vegetable.
His Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ponzu Fried Garlic, Guanciale, and Bonito Flakes were a work of art. Creative, complex, and soul-satisfying, in classic Namu-form. The Brussels sprouts were roasted to golden sweetness, the guanciale was appropriately full of crispy, fatty, pork goodness, and the bonito flakes added an element of surprise. The savory, smoky fish flavor blended well with the other ingredients at work, and the sight of them undulating like a creepy science project was just awesome.
The second take on Brussels sprouts that solidified my allegiance to the fan camp was one of the dishes that made my Thanksgiving potluck table this year: Brussels Sprouts with Red Onions in a Mustard Vinaigrette. Potlucks can be a hit or miss, depending on the participants. We lucked out this year, as our hostess’ roommate turned out to be a chef at E&O Trading Co in Larkspur.
To Chef Rene Caceres we owe not only one of the most succulent turkeys I’ve ever tasted (3 days of brining will do that), but a phenomenal Brussels sprouts recipe that doesn’t even lean on a bacon crutch!
The freshness of the sprouts shines in this dish. And the balance of the caramelized sweet onion and acidity of the mustard vinaigrette are the perfect complement.
Naysayers, this may be your turning point. Just give it a try, and let me know if you don’t find yourself popping these into your mouth like truffles.
Recipe adapted from Rene Caceres
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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1 lb. Brussels sprouts
¼ lb. guanciale
1 tablespoon fried garlic
4 oz. ponzu
4 oz. soy dashi
1 tablespoon butter
Extra virgin olive oil
Shichimi or Togarashi spice
For the Brussels Sprouts:
1. Quarter the heads or globes so the roots stay intact, keeping the leaves together.
2. Blanch the Brussels sprouts. Always blanch in a large pot (large enough that it won’t stop boiling when you drop the sprouts into it) of water with a healthy dose of salt (2-3 tablespoons). While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath. Boil the sprouts until they turn bright green, then immediately shock them in the ice bath. This can be done up to a day in advance and the sprouts can be stored, in the refrigerator covered.
For the Guanciale:
1. Cut the guanciale into about ½ inch cubes (remember it will slightly shrink when it cooks).
2. Boil the guanciale in a pot with the water at about 1 ½ inches above the meat. Bring it to a boil and simmer until soft. Much of the fat will render, but the flavor will remain rich. Drain and discard the liquid. This can also be done in advance and stored in a refrigerator.
The Brussels sprouts can either be roasted or pan fried.
Method 1: Roasting
Roast the sprouts and guanciale in the oven at 375 degrees F until golden brown with enough olive oil to coat, making sure to stir it every 5 minutes or so to get an even color.
Method 2: Pan Frying (Recommended)
1. Put 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan coated with extra virgin olive oil. When the butter melts, add the guanciale and Brussels sprouts. Put the pan on high and stir fry the ingredients. You want to get a nice brown color on the leaves of the sprouts, with some crispiness. The guanciale will also crisp up a little on the surface like bacon.
2. Once everything is nicely browned, add ponzu and soy dashi. Be careful as the pan will be very hot and will sizzle when you add the wet ingredients.
3. Let this reduce to the desired flavor, making sure to regularly toss the sprouts.
4. Top with shichimi, fried garlic and bonito flakes. The flakes will dance with joy.
Note: For the fried garlic, you can mince and fry this yourself on the stove in a pan with enough oil (neutral oil, i.e. rice, canola, grapeseed) to coat the garlic. Fry over low heat until the garlic starts to brown, remove with metal screen strainer (it will continue to brown) and place on paper towel and spread to cool with a spoon or chopsticks. Otherwise they sell wonderful fried garlic in Asian markets in a jar. For the ponzu, you can also find this in an Asian grocer. If you want to make your own, it’s 2 parts dashi stock, 1 part soy, 1 part rice vinegar and citrus juice to taste (Meyer lemon juice or yuzu juice works great).