October 5, 2009

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pistachios

After nearly 25 years of life, I have never actually tried a brussels sprout. They have quite a bad reputation, as I'm sure you know. Since childhood, most people have it drilled into their heads that brussels sprouts are vile, disgusting vegetables; ones that should not be trusted. I guess most would consider me lucky that my mom didn't force them upon my brother and I while growing up. However, I think this has only fueled the fire of my ever growing curiosity. I wanted to know why the majority of Americans had such a disdain for these leafy green veggies. Over the past couple years, as I've poured over my monthly issues of various food magazines, I've come across several recipes for brussels sprouts. I mean, if Gourmet Magazine deems them worthy enough to make the cut, how bad can they really be?

This particular recipe I've selected to try is by Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, both prestigious restaurants in the New York area (some of you foodies might recognize the name from an episode of Top Chef). Dan Barber is most well known for his simple approach to food, highlighting the natural flavors of produce by bringing fresh farm goods directly to the table. The trick to getting a tasty brussels sprout, I  believe, is making sure to cook them correctly. Over cooking brussels sprouts results in the bitter, unpleasant taste that I'm sure many of you associate them with.  

Bon Appetit gave some good advice on a couple different ways brussels sprouts can be prepared in order to accentuate their sweet, nutty flavor. Cutting a small X in the stem of each sprout before boiling them in salted water, helps to ensure that the interior cooks in the same amount of time as the exterior, thus preventing over cooking. They can also be blanched, whole, before being sliced and sauteed in butter or fat. As a third option, the technique implemented for this recipe, the leaves can be separated from their cores, and briefly sauteed just until tender. So maybe before you decide to stick to your original opinion of brussels sprouts, give one of the above methods a try. Of course, when in doubt, do as I did: saute the little suckers in some bacon fat- it may not help to highlight the natural flavor of brussels sprouts, but it sure doesn't hurt it. 

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pistachios 
Recipe adapted from Dan Barber, courtesy of Bon Appetit

A dish to convert all the Brussels sprout haters. By cooking the sprouts only briefly, you preserve their great nutty flavor. This side pairs nicely with roasted rack of lamb or whole chicken.

5 slices of bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 1/2 pounds of brussels sprouts, leaves separated from cores (about 8 cups), cores discarded
3/4 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Saute bacon pieces in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove bacon and place on a plate topped with paper towel to remove excess grease. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease from pan and add the 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil. Add shallot and stir 20 seconds. Add Brussels sprout leaves and pistachios, and sauté until leaves begin to soften but are still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add bacon bits and drizzle with lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

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