Friday, November 14, 2008
If there's one question that I get a lot this time of year, it's almost always something about holiday side dishes. Every family has their holiday staples--those dishes that must be made by the same person each year for fear of rebellion. But every once in a while, in every family, someone goes rogue and decides to bring a new dish to the table. That's where I usually come in, when asked by friends and readers to suggest a new recipe or alternative ingredient that doesn't necessarily appear at every holiday table. Last year, for example, I was asked for an all veggie Thanksgiving side dish and suggested my three mushroom ragu. Mushrooms don't usually get a lot of play around this time of year even though many of them are in season and at their peak, so I figured they wouldn't compete with any other sides. I cooked them in butter and olive oil with tons of fall herbs and spices so they'd blend well with your typical holiday sides.
This year I've decided to peddle the humble brussels sprout to anyone that is willing to listen. I'm still not sure why they're not a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, since they're in season and pair so well with other fall ingredients. They can be braised in cider, sauteed with ham and even mixed with chestnuts or walnuts, just to start. I've recently been obsessed with anything involving brown butter and sage (which just screams fall to me), so when I bought a beautiful stalk of brussels sprouts at the farmers market the other day, I knew I had to somehow incorporate brown butter. It's actually a very easy sauce that involves nothing more than heating butter in a saucepan with whatever spices you choose, until the foam subsides and the butter begins to go brown.
This dish is super simple and a slightly most upscale version of classic buttered brussels sprouts. I first blanched them in salted water until they were just tender (no more than five minutes), and meanwhile, began to brown the butter with fresh sage leaves until it was light brown and nutty. Then I drained the brussels sprouts, tossed them into the butter and tossed everything to combine. And because the butter takes on a super nutty flavor when browned, nothing is better for topping this yummy side than some kind of nut. I happened to have almonds on hand so I crushed a few in my mortar and pestle and sprinkled them over the whole dish. Walnuts, pecans or roasted chestnuts would have been amazing too, if I had some. Here's my final recipe, I hope you'll be thinking outside of the side dish box this holiday season!
Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter and Sage
3 cups fresh brussels sprouts, larger ones cut in half
4 Tbsp butter
4-6 fresh sage leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped/crushed walnuts, chestnuts, pecans or almonds
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add brussels sprouts and cook until just tender and still bright green (about 5 minutes). When done, remove to a colander and run under cold water or to an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain brussels sprouts well.
2. Meanwhile, heat butter and sage on medium-low heat in a non-stick skillet until butter starts to turn brown. Add cooked brussels sprouts to pan and season with salt and pepper (I found that I needed LOTS of salt). Toss to coat and cook until warmed through. Serve topped with chopped nuts. Enjoy!