Thursday, May 1, 2008
As I mentioned a few blogs ago (I think it was here), it has long been my goal to help people get over their food fears and encourage them to try new ingredients. Part of that for me is coming to the rescue of foods that get a bad rap, and believe me, there are a lot of them. Many of those are some of my favorite foods, and others I simply never tried until I was an adult and cooking for myself. A perfect example is the much detested, child repellent brussels sprout. These little guys are known for tasting bad and smelling worse. For years I wondered why most people claimed not to like them and fed them to the dog. But after much speculation and admittedly very little research, I've finally found the answer: your mother. That's right, your mother.
But before you challenge me to a fist fight after school, let me explain. For years, recipes called for brussels sprouts to be braised in liquids, ciders and juices for long periods of time. So naturally, our mothers obediently did as they were told by Good Housekeeping and the Joy of Cooking, and cooked the tar out of these poor, misunderstood veggies. In reality, fresh brussels sprouts need only cook for less than 15 minutes to cook all of the way through. In fact, cooking them for longer than necessary is what brings about the acrid, bitter flavor and moldy cheese like smell that many a scarred child now associates with brussels sprouts. When cooked to tender-crisp perfection, the brussels sprout is actually quite subtle and sweet, and an excellent companion to a salty meal, especially a perfectly grilled steak.
I most often brown them in a pan where I've rendered some bacon (a beautiful salty contrast), then scoop out the bacon and flash steam the brussels sprouts in chicken stock or some water and white wine. This time I'd bought some plump and fresh ones (we're just getting into the start of their season) and wanted to make more of a main dish for myself since I wasn't all that hungry. Looking to my pantry for help as I often do, I found I still had a can of cannellini beans, one of my favorite fillers. I added some chorizo for a hint of flavor and spice, and topped the whole thing off with a bit of Parmesan for some rich saltiness. It only took about 15 minutes to cook including chopping, and really manages to develop a long cooked flavor, even though it's such a quick dish. Here's the final recipe:
Brussels Sprouts with Cannellini Beans and Chorizo
2 cups brussels sprouts, halved
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chorizo, chopped
9 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or non-tomato based veggie stock)
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
1. Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan until very hot (almost smoking) and add half of the brussels sprouts, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until browned then remove from pan and set aside. Add another 3 Tbsp of olive oil to pan and repeat with remaining half of brussels sprouts.
2. Add remaining 3 Tbsp oil to the empty pan and cook garlic on medium heat until just starting to brown. Add brussels sprouts and stock and cook on medium-high heat until stock reduces by half and a thickened, light glaze is formed. Add butter, chorizo and beans and cook until warmed through. Remove fro the heat and mix in 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese. Plate topped with the remaining cheese. Enjoy!