02 February 2011

Creamed Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts get a bad rap. To be fair, that's because Brussels Sprouts are generally pretty damn terrible. At best they are bitter, at worst, damn near inedible. Generations of children have gone to bed hungry on the pointed threat of Brussels Sprouts. This is because Americans are terrified of undercooked food and tend to cook the living hell out of everything. When you over cook Brussels Sprouts, they release glucosinolate sinigrin which yields a sulfur odor and flavor. Unless you are Mestipholes, chances are you don't care for the odor or flavor of sulfur. Just between you and me, I think even he's getting kind of tired of it.

Brussels Sprouts don't have to taste like crap though. They can be delicious, and I'm going to show you how. Granted, I'm going to use some bacon and cream to do it, but you shouldn't argue with what works. If you're a vegetarian, and don't want to use bacon, that's cool, you can substitute crispy herbed croutons, or fried sliver of sweet potato, or, you know what? You can figure that part out yourself.

  • 2 tbs Apple cider vinegar
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 large shallot minced
  • 10-12oz brussels sprouts. trimmed and shredded
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish

This recipe calls for two prepared ingredients that tend to give some people trouble, poached eggs and crisp bacon. Poached eggs can be tough, so many of the preparations sound like mystical nonsense, demanding you create a whirlpool of just the right rpm, or add precise measurements of acid to the water bath. Bacon, for all it's loved, is difficult to fry evenly in most pans, yielding curly strips that are burnt in the middle and soggy at the tips. Before I get into the nitty gritty of making the main dish here, I'm going to break down these two preparations in a way that is damned near foolproof.

Bacon. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Lay out some bacon. Put the pan in a 400f oven for 10 minutes. Flip the bacon over and rotate the tray, toss it back in for another 10 minutes. Bam. Done. You just cooked awesome bacon that is evenly crisp and straight as Sergeant Joe Friday. Bonus: once the drippings cool off, gently pull up the foil and pour the grease off into a washed out tuna tin. Not only do you now have a handy reservoir of bacon dripping for future sautes, but chances are, you don't have to wash that tray at all. How's that for handy?

Poached Eggs. Using some cooking spray, butter, or some of that awesome bacon grease you just made, slick up some condiment bowls and then crack an egg into it. Put the tiny bowls in a steam basket, cover it, and get it over some boiling water. Put on the lid and in 2-5 minutes, depending on how cold the eggs are and what elevation you're at, BAM, poached eggs. They slide right out. Don't have condiment bowls? Use a coffee mug or a saucer. No steam basket? Put em right in the bottom of a sauce pan with just enough water to get some steam up. Don't be afraid to experiment, eggs are cheap. Careful when you take them out though, they were in boiling water, so whatever you put the eggs in is probably hot.

Now that we got that out of the way, here's how to handle the rest of this recipe.

Prep your Brussels Sprouts by rinsing them off under cold water and pulling off the loose outer leaves. Cut them down the middle from stem to head, then shred the halves into ribbons. This is easy, but if you really hate chopping, you have terrible knives, or you lost all your fingers in a tragic kitchen accident, toss them in a food processor after cutting off the stems and pulse it a few seconds. You want ribbons, not Brussels Juice.

Mince up that shallot nice and fine. You'll notice that this photo does not feature a shallot. I thought I had a shallot. I was mistaken. I was very stern with myself when I discovered this. It's okay though, maybe you don't have a shallot either? I hear Sandusky banned shallots last year, so it's possible. Substitute half an onion and 2 cloves of garlic, minced really fine. It's not going to fool James Beard, but it will probably fool Rachael Ray.

In a 12" skillet saute the shallot in 2tbs of butter until soft. If you saved some of that awesome bacon grease, use 1tbs of butter and 1tbs of bacon drippings. This will take 2 - 3 minutes. No rush.

Cut that bacon up into 1/4" strips. Yummy.

Drop in the Brussel's Sprouts and toss to coat with whatever delicious fat you're using. Add in the vinegar, water, cream, and tarragon, mixing well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and cook for about a minute over medium heat. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Do not overcook. Remember that part about Brussels Sprouts smelling like the devil's backside, that happens after 7 minutes. Don't do that. In the last minute or so of cooking, mix in half the bacon.

Butter up and toast your bread under the broiler while the sprouts cook. I'm using sourdough bread here because it's awesome. If you were planning on serving this to A. A. Gill, then you should probably choose a more square type of bread, something fresh made with a subtle nuttiness that evokes harvest grains, and then cut into diagonals removing the crust.

Gently transfer a poached egg, with the yolk still runny, onto each piece of toast. Cover with the egg with the Brussels Sprouts, then garnish with the remaining bacon and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot, let the yolk run.

Give that a taste.

And you thought you didn't like Brussels Sprouts.