DELICIOUS RECIPE INSPIRES CRAVING FOR BRUSSELS SPROUTS
My first memory of Brussels sprouts is when I was in my late teens. My mother introduced them around the holidays and served them with maple-glazed stuffed pork chops, hand-churned apple butter and baked sweet potatoes “in their jackets,” as the British like to serve this autumn orange tuber. Our family dinner plates glowed with the colors of the late fall bounty and my mother’s Brussels sprouts were cooked and seasoned to perfection. Around this time of year, I find myself thinking back on those special holiday meals and noting that my mother – a clever cook as well as creative one -- waited until her children’s palates were mature enough to appreciate this sophisticated and multi-nutrient vegetable.
To help celebrate the upcoming holiday season, Chef Sandy Lawler, manager of the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar, invited a few local chefs to participate in a series of seasonally-inspired cooking demonstrations. My husband, Nick, and I offered five holiday-oriented recipes from my cookbook, Tasting the Seasons. Business was brisk for all five, but we were happily surprised that the line for our Lemon Butter Brussels Sprouts was the longest. As each new taster gave his or her sample an enthusiastic “thumbs up” and waved friends over to our demonstration table, it was all we could do to divvy up portions fast enough amid a steady chorus of mmmms, ooohhs and ahhs.
In my three decades as a chef, caterer and food writer, I’ve encountered scores of people who promptly, and even proudly, declare their utter intolerance of Brussels sprouts. Many count Brussels sprouts, force fed by their well-intended mothers, high on their list of indignities suffered in childhood. There was no shortage of people at our table that day, usually nudged over by enthusiasts who had just given my recipe a try. There was so much attention drawn to our table you might have assumed we were offering a dish with more universal appeal – say, lobster bisque or chocolate mousse!
Long before the demonstration was scheduled to end, I served the last Lemon Butter Brussels Sprouts sample to a very reluctant taster, who, like those before, was converted to Brussels-lover at the first bite. Mind you, earlier that morning, as I was struggling to manage a huge mound of shredded sprouts making certain the butter was dispersing evenly, I called out to Nick that we would likely be eating Brussels sprouts for weeks. “That’s okay, I love them,” he roared from our sun porch.
So I find myself preparing this Brussels sprout recipe through the duration of the Brussels sprout season. These tiny, tasty cabbages complement a variety of entrees like seafood, beef, pork, lamb and chicken. They’re vegan and go great with beans, pasta and grain dishes as well.
Brussels sprouts grow in a spiral pattern on robust two to three foot stalks; each stalk depending on height yields about 20-30 sprouts. Farmers’ markets and some grocery stores sell Brussels sprouts attached to the stalk. While this is my favorite way to buy them and certainly the freshest, they are more commonly sold after they have been removed from the stalk. When selecting, chose firm, small, compact sprouts that are a vivid sage green, avoid any sprouts with yellowed leaves. Wash and prepare sprouts just before cooking. Fresh sprouts will keep refrigerated in a perforated bag for five or more days.
LEMON BUTTER BRUSSELS SPROUTS, SAUERKRAUT-STYLE
- 1½ pounds Brussels sprouts (about 2 dozen)
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- A few grindings of freshly ground black pepper
- To prepare Brussels sprouts, remove stem, cut in half lengthwise and thinly slice each half widthwise.
- In a large pan, melt butter over moderate heat, add Brussels sprouts and salt and stir to evenly coat shredded sprouts with butter.
- Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon zest and juice, stir, cover and cook an additional 2–5 minutes or until tender. Season the Brussels sprouts with pepper.