Brussels sprouts seem to be the IT vegetable these days. And I like them just fine. But as I was browsing Pinterest on my phone for new recipes I came across this one in a very roundabout way and boy am I glad I did! This past week my internets were down so I got a chance to test a lot of recipes straight out of the books. I made Indian chapatis, a Korean tofu stew, the best green curry I have ever tasted (and the spiciest too) and gathered ingredients for a red velvet bundt cake made with beets. I will share all of these with you, I promise. I also learned, but haven’t attempted yet, how to make no-churn ice cream (very dangerous for me) and Irish soda bread. Oh and scones (so, so simple). Not being able to post here transformed me back into being a student of the kitchen in its more traditional form, seeking out space when no one was looking to understand just what elevates good to great. While I exert sole dominion over my kitchen dreams, I don’t do so in a vacuum. Like with music, writing, art or really anything in life, sometimes it’s good to learn by example, to go back to the lab again, be it the books or other people’s tables and absorb what you learn. Luckily, I live in New York City and chef David Chang’s Momofuku can be part of that influence.
Normally, I like to let vegetables–especially greens– speak for themselves, as each one has its own subtle flavor. But, if for a moment I was unconvinced that a veggie could be elevated far above its natural state and enhanced by the most brilliant recipe I’ve read in a long time, it was but a fleeting juncture. This marinade takes a standard winter ingredient and infuses it with a lively combination of tart, spicy, sweet, and savory, creating an an eye-opening flavor while preserving all of the nutrients. Now I know that you can actually “level-up” a vegetable. And how! While the pungent smell of the fish sauce may be overwhelming on the nose, when you taste it, you will see that it is tamed by the acid of the lime and vinegar, the sweetness of the small amount of sugar and the freshness of the herbs. And there is a light (and adjustable) kick that lingers. The sauce keeps for a week and works really well over a salmon or Asian style meatballs (also to come). The original recipe calls for frying the Brussels Sprouts for a bit before roasting them, but alas, too decadent. I have to maintain my girlish figure somehow.
- 1 lbs. Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped mint
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 Tbsp thinly-sliced cilantro stems
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 to 3 red bird’s-eye chiles, thinly sliced, seeds intact
Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and set aside. It lasts for about a week so you can use the leftover on something else OR adjust for using fewer brussels sprouts.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the sprouts, cutting off the bottoms and peeling away any yellow or loose leaves. Dry well. Cut the sprouts in halves. Toss them with the oil, then lay them in one layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes, then, if they’re browning, flip them with a spatula (you don’t want these puppies to burn). Continue roasting until they’re tender and nicely brown, another 10 minutes or so.
When ready to serve, toss with dressing to taste and add mint and cilantro leaves (I actually added the mint and cilantro leaves to the vinaigrette as well, but I think it may reduce the amount of time the dressing will keep).