Monday, November 28, 2011

Smelly and Non-Photogenic

Brussels sprouts are a thing I have only enjoyed for the past few years. They are undeniably stinky. They are also bitter, and taste a bit like dirt, and have a strangely squishy yet fibrous texture when they're cooked. They are not something you should ever try to feed to children, because they will resent you for decades. Trust me, there is no amount of nutritional advantage which is conferred by brussels sprouts alone that will justify trying to make kids eat them. Just feed them something less yucky.

Brussels sprouts are way beyond Food for Newbies, and this recipe is not for the faint of heart. It's quite pungent. Bonus round: I ate it with beets. Back in September, I ate some beets at a fancy restaurant. I would never have thought of putting sesame oil on beets, but it was pretty darn special. They made it look really cool by using 2 colors of beets, and putting a chimichurri-type condiment on the plate, and some other stuff, but the really important things were the sesame oil and the ginger  vinaigrette. There might have been jicama matchsticks in there too, I can't remember.

I think this really is gratin, because it has a cream sauce, and cheese, and garlic, and a crumb top.


Brussels Sprouts Gratin

1 lb steamed brussels sprouts, sliced thin
1 onion
1clove garlic
a little butter for frying
a pinch of salt

leftover cheese, several kinds- I used about 2 ounces of a very smelly blue, about an ounce of medium cheddar, and one lonely slice of smoked gouda
1 T butter
1 cup milk
1T flour
a shake of black pepper

1 slice of rather stale bread
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon butter
a little grated parmesan (I used the kind in a can)

Pre- heat the oven to 375.

Use an oven proof skillet. Slice the onions thinly, mince up the garlic, and saute them in butter and a pinch of salt until they are quite tender and transparent. Add the sprouts and continue to cook until heated through. Set them aside.
To make the sauce, grate or finely slice the cheese. In a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, mix the butter & flour. Fry the flour for about 2 or 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. When it has stopped sizzling, add the milk and stir thoroughly before putting it back on the burner. Keep stirring. When the milk is starting to steam, and is just beginning to thicken up, add the cheese. Stir until the cheese is all melted, and the sauce is thick. Pour over the sprouts.
Smash or grind up the stale bread and fry the crumbs briefly with the butter & rosemary. Top the sprouts with the crumbs and parmesan, and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts tips:

1. You could use raw sprouts in this recipe. Clean and slice them, and add them to the onions. It will take a little longer to saute them, but it will be fine. I started with steamed ones because I bought a whole giant spear at TJ's and cooked them all at once so that I could eat them for the rest of the week without too much fuss.
2. The kind of cheese in the mix is not too important, I was just using up leftovers. I will say that the stinky blue cheese is pretty excellent in this. It was too strong to eat by itself, but it was good for cooking.
3. It is probably important to take the roux off the heat before adding milk. I think it prevents you from overheating the sauce too fast and causing it to break.
4. Roux!?!? Er, I mean, the flour fried in butter.
5. I don't usually have fresh milk in the house, because I don't drink it. I used powdered milk reconstituted according to the package instructions. Nobody will ever know.
6. This recipe would be good for company, at least, a company of adventurous eating adults. It is very rich, and is nice in cold crappy weather when you just want to hang out, watch movies, and have a drink and a nosh. 

Sesame Beets

4 or 5 medium size beets
2 or 3, 1/8"-thick slices of fresh ginger, cut into little matchsticks
about 4 T rice vinegar
about 1 T palm sugar, or brown sugar. I'm still trying to use up my palm sugar.
1/4 teaspoon salt
sesame oil to taste

Peel the beets, and cook as you ordinarily would.* I tend to slice them up first and then microwave them. When the beets are tender, put the ginger bits in a sauce pan with 2 tablespoons of vinegar, the sugar, and the salt. Simmer them until the vinegar has reduced by about half, and has formed a syrup. Add the remaining vinegar and pour over the beets. Toss with sesame oil.

You could get a little fancy by saving the ginger slivers to sprinkle on top of the beets after you toss them in the vinaigrette, and maybe adding a bit of chopped cilantro. Obviously, I just wanted to eat my lunch already.

* General digression on beets: Beets are another thing you should only feed to children under select circumstances. Use caution, and accept rejection easily. However, if you're going to cook them anyway, there are lots of ways to do it. You can boil them, but I prefer not to, because then you just dump out the boiling water along with half the beet flavor. You can steam them, with very similar results, and more equipment. You can roast them with their peels on in a 350 degree oven, which really makes them taste the best but takes forever, and then you have to put them in tupperware, let them steam loose from their skins for about 10 minutes, then peel them. It's easiest, in my opinion, to skin them with a yankee peeler, slice them thinly, and microwave them for 3-5 minutes at a time until they're tender. Add a couple tablespoons of water to create steam, and stir them frequently. You need a container that has a good lid, and be aware that it may spit beet juice all over your microwave if you let it get too much water in it.

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