Sunday, November 09, 2008
The Stalk of the Sprout
There are few vegetables that grow in a more suspicious way than the brussel sprout. This seemingly under represented and less than appreciated vegetable grows up a hefty stalk, bundled in bunches that look as though they are homely sorts trying to orderly stay with their respective members. I've seen brussels sprouts as of recently sold in stores on the stalk. They are so regimented and controlled, patiently awaiting the delicious future they hold. Shoppers pick these up and examine them, surprised and unsure if they really know what these green round orbits are. FYI, nutritionally Brussels Sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid and dietary fiber that found their original popularity in Belgium.
Last night Josh and I went to a phenomenal fundraiser and gathering for a non-profit called Avalon Housing. A family volunteered their personal home for the gathering, and food from gourmet spots all over town filled each and every room. We tasted and toasted to all things good and delicious. Brussels sprouts hailed an interesting position as design accents, placed within lanterns as decoration. My favorite bit of food was a round platter with a scoop of butter sat in the middle. The platter held an assortment of home cured meat, each piece almost bowing to the throne of butter in the center.
One night last week before we headed out for an evening with friends we made a scrumptious fettucine with brussels sprouts sauce. This meal would have probably been better on a night where we planned to hole up and stay in under blankets with a movie. We were sleepy after the heaviness settled contently in our bellies. But it's a pretty simple and quick recipe that fits this season with its daunting chill. It hints spiciness with horseradish and dijon mustard accenting the flavors of cream and bacon. This will make 4-6 servings and comes from a really great and rustic sort of Vermont book, From the Cook's Garden.
1 1/2 pints Brussels sprouts, roots trimmed and outer discolored leaves discarded
4 TB unsalted butter
2 TB olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta (we just used bacon)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 roasted red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups packed spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 TB Dijon mustard
2 tsp freshly grated or prepared horseradish
2 TB finely chopped dill (optional)
1 tsp dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fettucine
Bring medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cut a shallow X in bottom of each sprout for even cooking, and cut largest ones in half lengthwise. Add the sprouts to the water and cook for 6-8 minutes until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and save the water for the pasta.
Melt 2 TB of butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, cook and stir often until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the roasted pepper and spinach, cooking until spinach wilts about 2 minutes. Add the sprouts, cheddar, half-and-half, parmesan, mustard, dill, horseradish, and tarragon, stirring to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, cook fettucine in saved pot of water until just tender. Drain, return to pot, toss with remaining 2 TB of butter. Section pasta into separate bowls and top with sauce.
Makes 4-6 servings.