Wednesday, January 2, 2008

January 2: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dijon, Walnuts, & Crisp Crumbs

My husband's nephew Justin is 19. He lives with my in-laws and is attending his first semester of nursing school, and he is, all things considered, an amazing kid. He is responsible, bright, thoughtful, funny, with a wide variety of interests, including food. He is a great cook--he prepared a wide variety of sushi and sashimi for the family Christmas get-together this year, and it was pretty fun to watch my husband's aunt and uncle, who rarely eat anything that Uncle Phil or one of his brothers hasn't shot himself, uneasily approach what they would ordinarily have considered bait.

One of the family stories that I heard shortly after beginning to date my husband is about Justin as a four-year-old. His grandmother, my mother-in-law, was preparing brussels sprouts for dinner one night as Justin watched with interest. She steamed them and buttered them and served them, and Justin, well accustomed to the rule that everyone tried everything at the dinner table, ate a brussels sprout. He chewed, swallowed, and asked, "How can something so cute taste so yucky?"

I've had a lot of mushy, overcooked, skunky-tasting brussels sprouts too, but what I'm in love with is a perfectly cooked, nutty, fresh-flavored vegetable. As Fine Cooking magazine points in December's issue, the best favor you can do for yourself when cooking this vegetable is cutting it into a shape that suits the cooking method: quarters for roasting, slices for braising, and shredded for sauteing.

The recipe from this article that I particularly love is this one, made with ingredients I keep in my pantry. If you like, you can prepare the breadcrumbs up to two hours ahead of time.

Serves six to eight.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dijon, Walnuts & Crispy Breadcrumbs
From Fine Cooking Magazine, December 2007, by Martha Holmberg

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted lightly and crushed
3/4 tsp kosher salt; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cut through the core into quarters
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup coarse fresh breadcumbs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400 F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, caraway seeds, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and about ten grinds of pepper. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to thoroughly distribute the mustard mixture. Spread the sprouts in an even layer on the two baking sheets.

Roast until the cores of the sprouts are just barely tender and the leaves are browning and crisping a bit, 20 to 25 minutes (if your oven heat is uneven, rotate the pans midway through cooking).

While the sprouts are roasting, make the topping: line a plate with two layers of paper towel. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil with the butter in a medium (10 inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has stopped foaming, add the breadcrumbs all at once; toss to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the walnuts and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are browned and slightly crisp and the nuts are golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Dump the breadcrumb mixture onto the paper towels to drain the excess fat.

Transfer the sprouts to a serving bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the crumbs over the sprouts just before serving.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

I will have to try that. I love brussels sprouts.