The benighted Brussels sprout is finally having its day. It used to be quite fashionable to detest Brussels sprouts; now the momentum has shifted in the other direction and is gathering speed. As a descendant of cabbage-eaters on both sides of my family, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a Brussels sprout lover. (Research shows, in fact, that our palates are most influenced by the foods our mothers consumed during pregnancy.) Previously, in order to induce friends to consume them, I had to cleverly disguise my Brussels sprouts with things like nuts and dried cranberries. The last time I did that, my friend Jess remarked, “I think you should have let the Brussels sprouts be Brussels sprouts.” Let the age of the Brussels sprouts begin.
The English, like the French, like to serve their Brussels sprouts with plenty of crispy lardons. The English, it seems, like to add animal fat to everything. Beef dripping chips! Jerusalem artichokes roasted in duck fat! Suet pie crusts! This dish draws on the ‘make it better with meat fat’ concept thanks to a serendipitous “what’s in my fridge” experiment.
I’ve been feeling particularly “Susan on a budget” lately. Usually this means that I plunder my larder for things like lentils and barley and subsist on a wholly vegan diet. However I had a weak moment at the Borough Market. I had planned to frugally and virtuously buy seasonal vegetables, but instead I found myself wandering past the stall that only sells Comté cheese (bought that) and, as it happens, at another stall I felt compelled to buy a chunk of ‘Nduja, the fiery fatty Calabrian sausage made of peperoncino and delicious bits of pig like belly and jowl. When I came home and checked my bank account I felt horribly guilty; the only way to (partly) assuage my guilt was to make sure I used up everything I had bought. Mushrooms and Brussels sprouts may seem like a weird combination, but I swear, in this dish they worked, with the mushrooms bringing a meaty texture and lush density to the dish. Unexpectedly, when combined with the spicy ‘Nduja, the Brussels sprouts acquired an exciting kimchi-like heat and piquancy. The kick of acid from the lemon juice kept the dish from straying into stodginess. Being a greedy piglet, I ate this dish on its own, but as a side dish it would go nicely with strong, assertive meats, like roast lamb or mutton, or even, served at room temperature and drizzled with olive oil, with a charcuterie plate. Ingredients:
400 g (about a pound) Brussels sprouts, trimmed, tough outer leaves discarded if necessary, and halved
150 g (about 1/3 pound) chestnut mushrooms, washed and quartered
2 big fat cloves of garlic, sliced
50 g (about two ounces) ‘nduja sausage, peeled and casing discarded
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp sugar
A generous amount (75-100 ml, or 3-4 tablespoons) olive oil
Salt and pepper
Blanch the Brussels sprouts in boiling salted water for no more than three minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Slowly heat the garlic in about 50 ml (two tablespoons) of olive oil in a frying pan. When the garlic starts to release an aroma, stir in the mushrooms, reduce heat to low, cover your pan and cook, shaking the pan from time to time, for about ten to fifteen minutes or until the garlic is soft and the mushrooms have reduced in size by half.
Increase the heat slightly and add the ‘nduja, sugar, and a little more oil if necessary to keep it from sticking to the pan, breaking up ‘nduja with a wooden spoon until it dissolves. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are tender, about seven to ten minutes. Add the lemon juice, adjust seasonings, and serve.
Makes approximately four servings.
Suet pie crusts – is there any other way to do it!? Okay there is but boy does that suet taste good (mind you it adds an inch to the waistline every time i eat it
Yeah, I’m not knocking it. Beats the pants off butter pie crusts.
I love Brussel Sprouts, but came to them late in life because my parents didn’t really care for them. Which probably had more to do with over-cooking than anything else. Being Irish, they liked to cook the bejeesus out of everything! You got me very curious about the ‘nduja sausage. I’ve never heard of it. Looks interesting! Great post as always!!
Thanks Gene! 🙂
I just googled “nduja Seattle” and came across this massively impressive blog post: http://frombellytobacon.com/2012/05/09/nduja/
I bet it’s worth checking to see if they’ve got it at Salumi too.
Thanks for the link! I haven’t seen it at Salumi, but then I wasn’t specifically looking for it either, so it’s a good excuse to go back again. BTW, Mike Easton is moving Il Corvo out of the Market and into that neighborhood.
Brilliant! I love, love, love Brussels sprouts. (Hmmm, maybe my mom was eating the awful frozen ones back in the day.) Interesting you reference the kimchi. There’s a David Chang sprouts recipe using kimchi that is really good. Great minds!
David Chang! I love his food! I like kimchi with everything. I was thinking after I made this dish, in fact, that I want to make kimchi from Brussels sprouts. Your comment may just have tipped the balance.
Oh nduja! How I love thee! I bet those brussels sprouts were da bomb!
Stinky, garlicky, spicy. Yes. Da bomb. 😀
I love Brussels sprouts! I just had it with marinated lamb! And very nice pics, Susan 🙂
Thank you! 🙂 Brussels sprouts and lamb are a match made in heaven.
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I’m a big big fan of the whole improve-things-with-meat-fat concept and am a long time fan. Until now, for me, lardons (and chestnuts) had been the answer to “how do you apply your meat fat concept to Brussel sprouts?” question. Although, it has to be said, i’ve long been a lover of them, even (whisper it) when they were a bit mushy and over cooked. There is no accounting for taste (I have thing for stale sourdough as well).
Love the idea of adding ‘nduja, although as I have none to hand it might have to wait. Morcilla on the other hand, well, i have a couple of links just waiting for me to play with *skips off happily to add meat fat and blood to his Brussels*
PS – that Compte stall is frickin’ lethal isn’t it?
I will eat morcilla with anything. Morcilla and Brussels sprouts sounds deliciously filthy. Morcilla with Brussels sprouts and a fried egg perhaps? That would be like food porn. And YES, the comte stall is the Great Satan.
I almost cried reading “morcilla with brussels sprouts and a fried egg”
Tears of joy, I know.
Brussels are one of my favorite veggies!
Thanks Jen, me too! Thanks for stopping by, come again soon!
We love brussel sprouts. It makes a great side dish combined with steamed carrots and a light butter sauce. I would try this recipe gladly, but I don’t have a local market for your sausage type. It looks wonderful though. Any suggestions for the blander Southern American cook?
P.S. Those are the perfect serving bowls. Beautiful!
‘Nduja is a cousin of andouille, the spicy sausage that’s been adopted by Louisianans. I’d try that. And thanks — I love these serving bowls too. 🙂
I love brussel sprouts. My friend’s mother used to make them when we were growing up. I think she merely blanched, buttered, and salted and I thought they were amazing.
I’d never heard of ‘Nduja. It sounds wonderful. I’m going to have to go looking for it.
Are you in the US? I know it’s growing in popularity there. A friend now gets it with his monthly sausage box. (Monthly sausage box! *squeals*)
Yes in the US. Um…Monthly sausage box?! Where do I sign up?!?!? *dies*
I love brussel sprouts and nduja, I have a web site on the Calabria the land nduja: