Jeff, who had just finished his very first shopping session as a new member at the Park Slope Food Co-op (congratulations, Jeff!), walked into my smoky kitchen, lifted the top off my resting sauté pan, and asked "What are you doing with these little cabbages?"
"You mean my Brussels sprouts?" I shouted from the other room.
When I came back into the kitchen, Jeff was staring at his shoes. "Connie?" His head was still down. "Can I tell you something?" He stared at my shoes. "I always thought Brussels sprouts were those little clearish white things in Pad Thai". His voice was smaller than it had ever been.
But this is not his fault! Brussels sprouts, like anchovies and prunes and countless other misunderstood foodstuffs, have fallen tragically victim to an unshakable bad reputation started by the unknowing and whining children of helpless 50's housewives who didn't know any better than to boil the sprouts in water until they were limp and brown and mushy and stinky and then drench them with salt, put them on a plate with ground beef and ketchup and call it dinner.
Now, the cruciferous vegetable only show up on the dinner table when the whole extended family gets together for Thanksgiving and your middle-aged, polyester-wearing uncle Stan throws a tizzy-fit if the Brussels sprout casserole baked with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, like Momma used to make, is no where to be found. Yuck.
It's true that when cooked too long, the sulfur compounds in the Brussels sprouts are released and leave your kitchen smelling quite unpleasant.
What a shame. When cooked correctly, Brussels sprouts have an incredible nutty flavor and a satisfying initial crunch that makes way for an almost creamy, tender inside that make them one of my absolute favorite winter vegetables.
I enjoyed them so much for dinner last night that I made them exactly the same way for lunch today!
Here's how to make Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Apple
Ingredients (2 servings):
2 double handfuls of fresh and local Brussels sprouts, stems removed, cut in half
1/2 Apple, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp Pork Lard*
1 Tbsp Butter
1. Prepare an ice bath for your Brussels sprouts and set aside. Bring a heavy stock pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, blanch the Brussels sprouts for 1-2 minutes, or until very bright green. Transfer to ice bath and strain.
2. In a large saute pan, melt the lard and butter on medium heat. Add the shallot and apple & sautee until both are soft and caramel colored (about 10 minutes). Turn heat up to high for about 45 seconds to allow shallots to get a little crispy and the apples to get brown on the edges.
3. Turn heat off and transfer apples and shallots from the pan to a plate or bowl. Leave the lard and butter in the pan. Return pan the high heat and place the Brussels sprouts flat side down in the pan. Using tongs to check, sear until they are caramel colored and even a little charred. Flip them over and do the same for the rounded side.
4. Turn off heat and return apples & shallots to the pan. Toss together. Salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Allow all blindly accepted preconceptions to melt away.
*A note about Pork Lard: It's really a shame that the health food industry and agro-moguls like Monstanto and ConAngra did such a stellar job of scaring Americans into thinking that cancer and diabetes causing partially hydrogenated oils, like soy bean oil and margarine, were "better for you" than real, non-factory made foods (Plenty more on this later).
Pork Lard only sounds scary. In real life, Prometheus lost his freaking LIVER so that humans could begin cooking with pork lard. It's terrific! Its high burning point (about 390 degrees) and sweet, meaty flavor make it ideal for sauteeing. And for those of you counting about calories, 1 tbsp has 120 calories, exactly the same amount as Olive Oil.
I buy my lard already rendered from Flying Pigs Farm at the Prospect Park Farmer's Market on Saturdays.