Cooking up Brussels

October 13, 2013:
Cook’s Country  – October/November issue
Brussels Sprouts Salad

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Please excuse the ugly bowl, my family is much too large to be served by my pretty bowls

Last month’s cooking challenge was a risk, a HUGE, Brussels sprouts kind of risk!

Not everyone loves Brussels sprouts, in fact, I think most people actually hate them. (Weird, I know!) But I love them, like really, really, really love them. My moms loves them. Big Brother loves them. Big Ring loves them.

And so, for this month’s challenge I decided to take on the Brussels sprouts. But not in your traditional steamed buttery yumminess you typically find them in. Nope, I made a salad. That’s right folks, a Brussels sprouts salad! Risqué indeed.

When Big Ring pulled out two bags FULL of Brussels sprouts, four pounds worth, it took all of two seconds and a bulging of my eyes to realize that maybe I’d chosen the wrong dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. My gawd, I thought, I’ve got to slice all of those! That’s gonna take forever!!! Well, not quite forever, just three hours. THREE HOURS!!!

By 45 minutes into the stemming and trimming process, I was sprouts cross-eyed, seeing double sprouts, everything in my peripheral was  sprouts green, and I’m pretty sure my wrist was feeling the effects of  sprouts carpal tunnel. I decided to take a break, and move onto the next step of slicing. But just to make sure I was on the right track, I took a peak at the recip And that’s when I learned I’d just wasted 45 minutes. You see, when I looked at the ingredients list, it said the Brussels sprouts needed to be trimmed. I didn’t know how to trim Brussels sprouts, so I Googled it and found a YouTube tutorial telling me I needed to cut off the hard part at the bottom and remove the dark green leaves around the sprout. But had I looked at the entire page the recipe was on, I would have found an America’s Test Kitchen step-by-step trimming tutorial in which it shows all I had to do was stem the sprouts, not remove outer leaves. Oh frick.

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“You know what the number 1 rule of Amazing Race is,” said my dear husband, secretly I’m sure knowing it would irritate the heck out of me:Read the clue! Pay attention to detail!” Every episode I’m practically yelling at the TV screen at the teams who don’t read the entire clue, who don’t follow all the steps in the clue, who don’t pay attention to detail. They deserve to be penalized, I say. And I guess, I, too, deserved that 45-minute penalization. D’oh.

By the time I had finished thinly slicing each and every one of those taunting, tormenting, troublesome sprouts, I was pretty close to swearing off my once beloved holiday veggie for life. My hands were tight, cramping, gripped into a slicing shape long after the knife had been pulled away. I wanted nothing more than to just quit this recipe, dash off to the nearest grocery store and pick up something I know would have been edible… a statement I could not yet promise for this one.

The money already spent, however, kept me on path. I whipped up the vinagrette, which was fairly easy aside from the shallot tears, then mixed it in with the Brussels sprouts, and then proceeded to shred the gouda, chop the dried cherries, and toast the pecans. (Thank you Big Ring for buying pre-chopped pecans; one less step.) Then, I begged for the best.

I was worried.

If this recipe was just for Big Ring and I, it wouldn’t have mattered so much if it turned out awful. But because I was feeding it to my entire family (or at least those brave enough to try cooking from my hands) and because there are a few of us around the table who very much love our sprouts, I was freaking out the whole drive over to my parents’. This was the first recipe challenge where it wasn’t just Big Ring and Little Ring as my guinea pigs. Risqué indeed.

I placed it on the table and called it “slaw.” What people didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them right 😉 I saw my parents, brothers, sister in law, nieces, and even a couple of my nephews pile it on to their plates. I took in a breath and waited. And then, it came:

  • “Who made this salad? It’s excellent.”
  • “I need this recipe.”
  • “Well done.”
  • “I don’t even like Brussels sprouts, but this is really good.”

And then, it was my turn. One bite. Two bites. Three bites just to be sure. HOLY YUMTASTIC!!! This was really, freaking tasty!!! Wow! The sprouts weren’t rabbity at all, they had softened up quite nicely from the viniagrette, and the smoked gouda along with the cherries and pecans gave it that extra powerful oomph of goodness. But would I do it again?

Only if I bought pre-sliced sprouts, which thanks to my sister-in-law I now know is an option.

Yum! Yum! Yum!

Fun fact about Brussels sprouts: They originate in Brussels!!! I never once associated Brussels sprouts with Belgium until this recipe when I realized the Brussels in Brussels sprouts was capitalized. My family has roots in Belgium; no wonder I love this veggie so 😀

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Not Brussels, but Bruges.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and sliced very thin
1 cup shredded smoked gouda
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

1. Whisk lemon juice, mustard, shallot, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until incorporated. Toss Brussels sprouts with vinaigrette and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
2. Fold in smoked gouda and pecans. Add chopped dried cherries. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 8

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