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Brussel Sprouts

Brussels sprouts and bacon in a black cast iron skillet on a wooden surface.
Jack Kennard/Jack Kennard jackkennard.com
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Jack Kennard
Brussels sprouts and bacon. Photo by Jack Kennard via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Welcome to RK, I'm AS. As food fads go, the current love affair with Brussels sprouts is among the more surprising. These small cousins of the cabbage have lingered in obscurity and loathing until fairly recently. Now it's hard to find a restaurant menu that doesn't offer them in some form. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has a few ideas about some of things we can do with them.

Brussels sprouts are in fact closely related to cabbage, from their shape right down to their flavor. In the second half of the 20th century all too many people encountered canned sprouts, which are frankly an abomination.

Even fresh Brussels sprouts can suffer if over-cooked (often by boiling). But if you prepare them properly, they are truly delicious. Al likes to trim up the sprouts removing the tough woody stems, and allowing loose outer leaves to fall away. he then steams them until they are just tender, and dresses them with salt and pepper, butter and Worcestershire sauce. (He thinks they are a perfect foil for cabernet sauvignon.)

For Jerry, the perfect use of sprouts is in a coleslaw format.

Brussels Sprout Slaw

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon black pepper

⅓ cup shallot, halved and thinly sliced

⅓ cup dried cranberries

⅓ cup pecans, chopped

Wash and pat dry your Brussels sprouts, and remove root side.

Shred the Brussels sprouts using a chef's knife, mandoline, or food processor with a shredding blade.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing using the olive oil, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded Brussels sprouts, shallot, dried cranberries, pecans, and the dressing.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate.

As Brussels sprouts have soared in popularity, cooks have gotten more creative with their ideas. Here's a very appealing recipe.

Maple Bacon Sprouts

Ingredients

8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

2 lb. Brussels sprouts

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

½ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries

¼ cup apple juice

¼ cup maple syrup

1. In a large cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon oven medium-high for 6-8 minutes or until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

2. Add the Brussels sprouts to the skillet, stirring well to coat with the bacon grease. Reduce heat to medium and cook without stirring for 6 minutes or until the sprouts start to brown/caramelize. Stir in the salt and red pepper and continue to cook an additional 6 - 8 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are just tender.

3. Stir in the cranberries, apple juice, and maple syrup. Cook 3 minutes, stirring to coat the Brussels sprouts. Add the cooked bacon and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.