Saturday, December 6, 2008

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei stained glass"We kids feared many things in those days - werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School - but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts." - Dave Barry, Miami Herald Columnist
I think just about every kid hates Brussels sprouts. I don't know a lot of adults who will eat them either. It must be because we don't know how to prepare them. If we can't mercilessly boil our vegetables to death, we Americans don't know what do to with them. (There I go again, hating our freedoms.) A chef friend of mine once served Brussels sprouts sautéed with honey and lemon several years back, and I've been a fan ever since.
As you already know, I picked up about a pound of fresh Brussels sprouts from my Farmer's Market way back in October. Right around the time my Nimbus 500 (10-year old PC) decided to crap out while I procrastinated over shelling out the cash for a new machine. Though I was without blogging capabilities, I continued to shop and cook.
blanched Brussels sproutsFirst I rinsed my sprouts in cold water and then trimmed back the loose outer leaves and some of the stem. Then I lowered them in a steamer basket into boiling water and blanched them for about two minutes. Blanching softens the sprouts without robbing them of much of their nutritional value. After letting them drain and cool a bit, I cut them all in half, length-wise.
crispy pancettaI crisped up some cubed pancetta in a skillet, poured off most of the fat and then added the sprouts to the pan over high heat. I squeezed in the juice of a lemon along with a generous dollop of honey and tossed everything together.

Sautéing sproutsN.B. Once the sprouts, bacon and liquids are mixed, LEAVE THE PAN ALONE. It's tempting to stir and fuss over the pot, it gives one the sense of accomplishing something. But in this instance you want to allow the vegetables to develop a little caramelization.
I suppose one could make a meal of Brussels sprouts with pancetta alone, but it would be a sad sort of affair. Certainly not something worthy of You Gonna Finish That. No, I went with a classic French rack of lamb that my Italian butcher prepped for me. I seasoned it with rosemary, thyme, garlic, a little olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. Wrapped in cellophane, it rested in my refrigerator over night. The next day, while prepping my Brussels sprouts, I pre-heated the oven and a roasting pan to 425°. While the sprouts blanched, the lamb roasted in the oven. Twenty minutes later, as the vegetables finished caramelizing, I covered the finished lamb with foil, allowing the juices to re-distribute into the meat.
Marinated rack of lambHoney and lemon sauteed Brussels sprouts with pancettamedium-rare lamb chops
Storrs 2005 Petite Syrah Rusty Ridge old vines labelI sat down to a perfect medium-rare lamb chop and Brussels sprouts that weren't bitter or mushy, but firm, sweet and sour all at the same time. The pancetta lent saltiness and smoke. Good lamb will have a rich, almost gamey flavor. You need a wine that will stand up to the intensity of the flavors. A good Petite Syrah is always a formidable contender. Berry and spice in the nose, jammy and peppery in the mouth, it can hold its own. Storrs Winery in Santa Cruz, California bottled an '05 Rusty Ridge old vine Syrah in 2007. I somehow managed to hold on to a bottle until now. I tried convincing a couple of folks to head up to the Bronx for a glass; no one would take the bait. My old friend Augie Roche had a Portuguese saying for just such occasions: mais para mim, more for me!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

1 comment:

Matty O. Food said...

While my love of the sprout from brussels is well known to your blog comment readers. I would probably slap my momma for one of those lamb meat-pops. And.. if it says Rusty Ridge.. hold on to your taste buds!!