Wednesday, November 30, 2011

dijon-braised brussels sprouts

saucing the sprouts

Is there anything so dull as a brussels sprouts recipe just days after the brussels sprout-ing-est holiday of the year? No? Phew. Because these sprouts, they’re a long time coming. It took me forever to get them right. I’d originally intended them for the cookbook. I made them six different ways in the fall of 2010, and I never found what I was looking for. It was a year before I could even look at brussels again, and by that time, the book had moved on without them. But I had not.

a sad bag of sprouts, much to peel
halved

I wanted a brussels sprout dish that was the opposite of what I’ve been seeing around in the last couple years — that would be free of nuggets of slab bacon, toasted nuts, buttery breadcrumbs, crumbled cheese or individual leaves, deep fried until crisp as potato chips. Do I dislike any of these things? Heavens, no. But they’re all so heavy. And rich. And brussels, with their cabbage origins, are hearty enough. I wanted to cook them in a simple braise, and then finish them with a piercing, heavenly sauce, something that cut right through the leafiness without adding mountains of pork fat. I wanted the cabbage equivalent of our favorite chicken dish.

pan-browned brussels

ready to simmer

Of course, it took but two weeks after the great Lowering Of the Stakes (I mean, manuscript delivery) for me to get it right. It turns out that a little free time and slight release of the pressure valve make me a better cook! Huh. Anyway, these are brussels sprouts, exactly as I always want them to be. They’re halved and browned, then braised in wine and broth, topped with rings of shallots, and then, when they’re tender (but not mush), you transfer them to a platter and make a Dijon pan sauce. And if you’re like me, the hardest thing will be not drinking it directly from the pan with a straw. I can tell by the look on your face right now that you’re probably not like me. This is for the best because did I tell you I lost a bag of shallots, prior to making this dish? Lost them. In our tiny apartment. Two weeks later, I still haven’t found them and I fear for when I do. These are the kinds of things that happen when you’re me. But I found my kicky brussels sprout at last, so there’s that, too.

braised sprouts
dijon braised brussels sprouts

One year ago: Roasted Chestnut Cookies
Two years ago: Balsamic Braised Brussels with Pancetta (these are the opposite of today’s sprouts, achingly delicious and so very rich)
Three years ago: Winter Fruit Salad, Mushroom and Barley Pie, Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart, Mustard Roasted Potatoes, Walnut Tartlets and Cauliflower Gratin
Four years ago: Tiramisu Cake, Curried Lentils and Sweet Potatoes, Rugelach Pinwheels
Five years ago: Honey Hoisin Pork Riblets, Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Wild Mushroom Pirogis and Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Trim sprouts and halve lengthwise. In a large, heavy 12-inch skillet heat butter and oil over moderate heat. Arrange halved sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook sprouts, without turning until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. [Updated to note: If your sprouts don’t fit in one layer, don’t fret! Brown them in batches, then add them all back to the pan, spreading them as flat as possible, before continuing with the shallots, wine, etc.]

Add the shallots, wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low (for a gentle simmer), cover the pot with a lid (foil works too, if your skillet lacks a lid) and cook the sprouts until they are tender can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the lid, and scoop out brussels (leaving the sauce behind). Add cream and simmer for two to three minutes, until slightly thickened. Whisk in mustard. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary with more salt, pepper or Dijon. Pour sauce over brussels, sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve immediately.


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