Brassica oleracea! Qapla’!

Unlike a lot of people, I love Brussels sprouts. Really. I’d always kind of liked them until I saw how they grow — the stalk looks like an ancient Klingon weapon you need to know how to use before you can be considered a real warrior. But, y’know, maybe that’s just me. Check ’em out:

Serve with fresh heart of targ. OMG I AM SUCH A NERD.

How crazy is that? I found some looking just like that in one of Boston’s farmer’s markets in the fall of 2000. I think the reason I remember it so well is that it was the first time I really stopped to think where my food came from and how it grew. Obviously, I knew Brussels sprouts didn’t grow in the little cups you buy them at the supermarket, but who knew they looked like that?

No one, evidently, because I got a lot of stares on the subway ride home and at least three people stopped and asked me what I was bringing home. As a rule, Boston subway riders won’t stop to talk to you even if you’re on fire — to have three of them talk to you in one day? Unheard of.

Anyway. As I said, I really like Brussels sprouts, in all their cute mini-cabbage-ness, so when I saw them at last week’s Greenmarket, I bought about a pound. I vaguely remembered I had an old issue of Everyday Food with a roasted Brussels sprouts recipe I’d wanted to try and after looking through every single issue I own — twice — I found it. (Seriously, is there some good method of cataloguing the recipes in one’s food magazines that I don’t know about? Because I would really rather not go through that again.)

Here’s the basic recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 pints Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Here’s what I did:

I had more bacon than the recipe called for — five, or maybe six slices — but I put it all in, because, honestly, can extra bacon ever be bad? I thought not. I sliced it all, added it to the pan, and put it in a 425 degree oven. I didn’t know how much four pints would be, so I just added all the Brussels sprouts I had, once the bacon had been in there about 10 minutes and was starting to smell like smoky pig heaven.

Meanwhile, I sliced up the only apple I had left, a mammoth Mutsu. The recipe was fairly vague on the apple. The directions said “cored, sliced into 1/4″ slices, then halved” but the accompanying photo showed a cored appled that had been quartered. So, I split the difference by quartering the apple and slicing it 1/4″ thick, which still left me with some bigass apple pieces.

Once the Brussels sprouts (at this point, I have misspelled Brussels sprouts so often, I’m just pasting it in each time) had started to brown (about 15 minutes after they went in), I added the apple, minus some we had eaten while waiting,

Another fifteen minutes and a splash of red wine vinegar later, and I had this:

Brussels sprouts with bacon and apple.

The verdict: my husband deemed them awesome, although a little dry, while I gave it a resounding eh.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d certainly make this again, knowing what I know now, but the initial result was… lackluster. The bacon, a nice thickly-cut and very smoky one from Whole Foods, was a little overwhelming. In retrospect, hey, maybe I should have just followed the recipe, but again I insist, who could have thought extra bacon could ever be a bad thing? The Brussels sprouts themselves were good. Some of the smaller pieces had a little of that bitter/overcooked taste Brussels sprouts can get, but adding some additional vinegar helped that. The apple, while good, definitely could have been both smaller and tarter — maybe a Granny Smith next time.

By the time this was done, after standing around in a kitchen of tantalizing bacon fumes for almost an hour, I was far too hungry to get a photo of the rest of the dinner, all neatly plated, but I served the Brussels sprouts with some really great sausage with kashkaval cheese in it (yeah, I’d never heard of it either) from our first FreshDirect order and pumpernickel bread from the local bakery — both of which I will elaborate on in my next post(s).

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2 thoughts on “Brassica oleracea! Qapla’!

  1. howdy gezellig! brussel sprouts…i’m with you. I found a recipe I haven’t tried yet from Delia Smith….Brussel Sprouts in Reisling with Bacon…it basically involves par steaming them until their about 1/2 done, then tossing them in a frying pan in which you’ve cooked some bacon, a couple of shallots and a clove of crushed garlic, let them brown a bit, throw in a glass of Reisling, and let the sprouts soak up the wine. Once all but about 2tbsp of the wine is soaked up, put them in a serving dish, top with fresh pepper and serve…I think I’ll be trying this one soon…can’t wait to hear about the bread…Nicky

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