I made up this recipe after being inspired by an episode of Iron Chef I happened to see on vacation. That was a venison battle, but one of the dishes involved brussels sprouts. My family tells me it is one of the tastiest dishes I've ever concocted. I served it on New Year's Day. It seemed like a very new-year-ish dish.
If you don't like brussels sprouts, it could be because if you cook them by steaming or boiling, they tend to turn into nasty, bitter, sulfurous little cabbages. Cooking them in a dry method with high heat caramelizes them and releases wonderful complex nutty flavors and aromas.
A warning: if you are not used to eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables, this dish may be a bit challenging to digest. You may need to sleep with the windows open!
Serves 8, or me and three other people : )
I served this with mixed greens (collards, kale, and mustard greens) cooked with sage-flavored bulk pork sausage and a loaf of challah with unsweetened butter. We had a Shiraz with it, but that was all wrong; it would have gone much better with a very cold Charonnay or Riesling.
For the spices, before you wind up buying something, see if you've got something useful on hand. I actually used a leftover pumpkin pie spice mix that my wife made for Thanksgiving. I tend to cook by sniffing and tasting the spices and the raw food and deciding what seems like it would go well together. Trust your instincts!
You will need:
- 3 or 4 lbs. fresh brussels sprouts
- 1 cup raw cashews
- Hard cheese (parmesan reggiano, aged gouda, etc) -- enough to yield 1/2 cup grated
- 3 Tbs grapeseed oil
- 2 tsp allspice or pumpkin pie spice mix (allspice, nutmeg, cinammon, cloves)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt to taste
- A heatproof bowl
- A large frying pan
Grate the cheese. The sprouts should be dry, so if you washed them, dry them completely with paper towels. Cut off the stem ends and make them into 1/4" slices. (Don't worry if some of them fall apart and you have loose bits -- the goal is to give the vegetables a lot of surface area).
Heat half the oil to medium heat and throw in the cashews. Fry until nicely browned, turning constantly to avoid burning (perhaps 3 minutes). Scoop the cashews out into the heatproof bowl (make sure you get all the pieces of nut, or they will burn in the pan and ruin the flavor). Leave some of the nut-flavored oil in the pan. Add the cheese to the hot cashews and stir quickly. Set the nut mixture aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and increase the heat to high. Before the oil starts to burn, toss in the brussels sprouts. You want to cook them quickly, turning several times to lightly brown the cut surfaces, until they are softened slightly and a bit brightened in color. They should release a nutty aroma. You don't want them to start cooking down and releasing a lot of liquid. On my stove this took 3 minutes or so, but your stove may vary. Add the allspice and red pepper flakes about halfway through cooking. Add the cashew/cheese mixture and mix. Add salt to taste (I threw in only a small amount, perhaps a quarter-teaspoon). Serve immediately.
If you try this recipe, I'd be interested to know what you think!