Saturday, February 1, 2020

Anne Rosenzweig’s “Best Brussels Sprouts”

In all the years I have been keeping a blog, I don’t think I have ever gone a full calendar month without at least one post.  Last year—for a lot of reasons—I didn’t post often, but I managed at least once a month.  This year I promised myself (which is as close as I ever get to a NY resolution) that I would post more often…and try to gradually return to a rate of about four a month.  Well…today is February 1…and my last post was on December 31.  All of January just slipped by.  I mention this only because I want to put it out there that in spite of how it might appear, I am not bringing For Love of the Table to an end.  At least not for now.  I will attempt to return to more frequent posting, but I don’t ever want to get to the place that I post something that I consider substandard just to get a post up.  I will continue to aim for a more frequent and regular schedule….but unfortunately may not succeed for a while.  The good news is that I’m still at it…just in a more sporadic way for the time being. 

As for today’s post, it is a bit unusual.  For the most part the recipes that I share are either my own or recipes from another chef or cook that I have tweaked in some way—great or small—to suit my tastes…or my pantry…or my idea of how it really should have been done in the first place.  I have never taken an inventory of recipes that I have shared without any changes, but there aren’t very many.  Today’s recipe is one of the few that I am posting with no changes.  It just didn’t need any….

In fact, the recipe’s creator—Chef Anne Rosenzweig—dubbed them “the best Brussels sprouts.”  I don’t know if I would go that far (there are a lot of really delicious ways to prepare Brussels sprouts!), but they are indeed very, very good. 

Before I share the specifics of what it was about the recipe that appealed to me, I wanted to mention that I was drawn to the recipe because of the source.  It is unfortunate that many of today’s cooks and chefs have never heard of Anne Rosenzweig.  She is an important figure in the recent history of American food and cooking.  When I was just starting out in restaurant work, women who had succeeded in that male dominated world were few and far between.  As I sit here typing and try to come up with a list of women chefs with national reputations who were role models for young women chefs and cooks during the late eighties and early nineties I can only think of a few:  Alice Waters, Nancy Silverton…and Anne Rosenzweig.  (I’m sure there were others…but a quick brainstorm only produces those three…).  Waters and Silverton are still active and well known.  But Rosenzweig—who was the chef at the helm of Arcadia in New York for many years—seems to have slipped out of view.  Last year when I ran across this Brussels sprouts recipe from Arcadia, I wondered about what had happened to her….so I Googled her.  I found a wonderful recent article detailing her career…and where she is now.  It is well worth reading.

In terms of the recipe, many things about it were appealing.  First and foremost, it includes two of my favorite food partners for Brussels sprouts—bacon…and carrots.  The bacon is an obvious and traditional companion.  All the brassicas (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli…to name a few) are enhanced by the addition of salty and fatty cured pork products.  The carrots aren’t so obvious...but I know from experience that their natural sweetness make them a perfect foil for the slightly bitter Brussels sprout.  I have posted several recipes—a couple of pastas and a side dish—that feature these combinations if you would like to sample it in other ways. 

The other thing about this recipe that is particularly appealing is how easy it is to prepare.  None of the ingredients have to be pre-cooked (no toasting nuts…or blanching the Brussels sprouts…).   Simply render the bacon...then add the pine nuts and allow them to toast in the bacon fat while the bacon finishes crisping.  

Then add the garlic and carrots and cook briefly to release the fragrance of the garlic.  

Then add slender wedges of Brussels sprouts 

along with a splash of water, cover the pan and cook until the sprouts are tender—which typically takes about 5 minutes.  The whole process from start to finish only takes about 15 minutes…and only requires one pan. 

It would be enough if the dish were just delicious.  But it is attractive too.  The tiny cubes of carrot are elegant.  And because the sprouts aren’t subjected to the heat long enough to lose their fresh color, the dish is a lovely green.  To me this is a lot of return for a small amount of effort.  (And if you are put off by the tiny dice required for the carrots

—it has to be this way so they will cook quickly—think of it as a wonderful opportunity to practice your knife skills!)

These sprouts of course make a great side dish, but they are not limited to that.  Recently I made them for my lunch and topped them with a poached egg (a fried egg would work too). And even though this did require another pan, I have to say it was worth it.  I highly recommend it.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pine Nuts & Carrots

3 slices bacon, cut cross-wise in 1/4-inch strips
Olive oil—as needed
1/4 c. pine nuts
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
1/2 c. very finely diced carrot (you will need 4 oz. whole carrots)
1 1/4 lb. Brussels Sprouts (4 cups), trimmed, halved and each half cut into quarters
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 T. minced flat leaf parsley

Render the bacon in a large sauté pan set over moderately low heat.  When the fat is rendered, increase the heat to medium and add the pine nuts.  Cook, stirring constantly until the bacon is crisp and the pine nuts are golden brown in spots—this will only take a minute or so.  Watch carefully to avoid burning the bacon and pine nuts.  If the bacon was very lean, you may need to add a bit of olive oil. 

When the bacon is crisp and the pine nuts are golden, add the garlic and carrots and cook (stirring constantly) until the garlic releases its fragrance (less than a minute).  Add the sprouts, along with a good pinch of salt, and toss to coat in the fat.  Add a 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.  Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sprouts are cooked to your liking.  Depending on the size and age of the sprouts, they will take anywhere from 2 to 7 minutes.  Check occasionally to make sure they haven’t boiled dry.  If necessary, add more water (but just enough to create some steam).  When the sprouts are tender, uncover and continue to cook until any remaining water has evaporated.  Fold in the parsley.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt (if necessary) and pepper.  If you like, add a drizzle of olive oil (if the bacon was very fatty, this won’t be necessary).   Serve warm.  Serves 3 to 4

Note:  You can make this recipe in just about any quantity (just a portion…or multiple…of the original).  Simply choose a pan that will hold all of the Brussels sprouts so they are not piled too deeply in the pan. 

(Recipe from A Well-Seasoned Appetite, by Molly O’Neill.  The original dish was served at Arcadia in Manhattan for many years.)
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