People were cooking Brussels sprouts long before they showed up on every single gastropub menu in town, paired with bacon and often so over-cooked you'd need to be drunk to eat them. But just because somebody decided the vegetables were impossibly hip doesn't mean you have to boycott them. Maybe pick up some very good ones from the farmers market, ideally still attached to the stalk, and rehabilitate them instead. Because there's a reason that they're on a lot of menus, with or without IPAs and hamburgers: They're damn good, especially if you cook them properly.
They're also great this time of year, paired with large roasted birds, piled high in a huge bowl for a nice bit of green on a table that often doesn't have enough of it. Brussels sprouts are cold weather vegetables, thus they're in their prime this time of year. And not only are they flavorful enough to stand up to robust components, they're very pretty too. Take them off the stalk and they resemble tiny green cabbages; the French call them choux de bruxelles, or Brussels cabbages which, if you think about it, makes a lot more sense than calling them sprouts.
The strong cabbagey flavor of Brussels sprouts remains very pleasant if you don't overcook them, and its a flavor that matches well with bold and acidic notes, like mustard and yes, bacon. If you need some more ideas, here are five Brussels sprouts recipes that might help you out.
If you haven't read Sifton's lovely Thanksgiving piece in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine, you might go find it this week -- especially if you're one of the many cooks who isn't planning a massive feast for an army. He details a simple turkey dinner "meant to evoke the holiday without being sentimental about it." Invoking Elizabeth David, who is to food what Elizabeth Bishop is to poetry, there are turkey cutlets in Marsala and a risotto -- and a simple recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts. Halved or not, in a hot oven with olive oil, pepper flakes and salt and pepper.
This recipe from British chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi is kind of the polar opposite of Sifton's simple recipe -- the vegetables zapped with hoisin sauce and orange peel and garlic and sesame oil and fried shallots and some more things too. These vegetables can handle it, being just as good with myriad flavors as with a minimalist cook's lack of them.
See also: 5 Great Recipes for Celery Root
To state the obvious, Mollie Katzen is very, very good with vegetables. If you grew up with the Moosewood Cookbook, and even if you didn't, it's a good time of year to be reminded of this. Her gratin recipe, in which the Brussels sprouts are paired with potatoes and spinach and Gruyère and whole wheat bread crumbs, would make a lovely side dish for a crowd -- but sounds pretty great just by itself. If you're just cooking for yourself this Thursday, maybe just ditch the turkey for this.
If you're tired of having to roast everything for your Thanksgiving menu -- or you know you're going to run out of oven space -- maybe don't bother to cook your Brussels sprouts at all. Hugh Acheson's recipe calls for a mandoline or a sharp knife instead of a roasting pan, and some peanuts and Pecorino and a mustard vinaigrette for a hearty salad that would go just as well with your turkey as yet another roasted vegetable dish.
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Okay, forget what we just said about roasting more things. Odds are, even if you have David Chang's cookbook, you haven't cooked from it yet -- so maybe start with this recipe, which is a lot easier than making your own ramen broth. Fish sauce is a terrific, very under-used ingredient, a fantastic addition to savory recipes (instant umami, really). If you have the book, you might also want to check out the recipe for Brussels sprouts with kimchi puree and bacon, on p. 94.
See also: 5 Great Recipes For Fennel
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