I’ve yet to hear someone say, “Wow, Brussels sprouts, my favorite!” Have you? Have you ever cooked up a bushel of green globes to the enthusiastic delight of your hungry dinner guests? But wait, if you said yes, I bet there was a bit of bacon involved…
…Come on, you can admit it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Brussels sprouts slathered in glorious pork fat.
The mighty sprouts are all over Bay Area markets right now, vying for their spot on the Thanksgiving table. My family was never big on Brussels sprouts. I actually can’t remember one holiday where they sat besides the turkey, lasagna, seafood salad, fish sauce or fresh mozzarella. Our lavish Italian holidays were not typical of the average American family, but still, not a single sprout? I remember seeking them out at friends’ houses, not quite understanding why they, instead of, say, asparagus, were so vehemently hated by anyone under the age of 25.
I roasted these Brussels sprouts in duck fat. It’s indulgent I know, but healthier than butter and more natural than canola oil. Olive oil is my fat of choice, but the rich caramelization that magically transpires when you roast vegetables with duck fat is a heavenly experience not to be missed. You can save the fat from a duck you cook at home (maybe from this Duck Lasagna recipe – the fat will come off with the skin), or in a pinch, buy it at your local butcher. If you rarely cook duck, buy the fat. Use it to roast or fry potatoes, cook eggs, make grilled cheeses, sauté carrots. . . Wherever you use it, remember your final dish will be heavier than if you use olive oil – it’ll feel like you used butter, but its taste will lack that inherent sweetness. Instead you’ll get a savory, full-bodied mouth full that’s completely different from any other fat.
Before roasting, I pulled off the outer leaves of each sprout, rolled them, and sliced them into long strips (chiffonade). I threw them into a cast iron skillet that was already toasting crushed pecans and almonds, and added dried cranberries. When the sprouts were browned and crispy, I tossed them with the nutty sweet mixture.
Before the recipe, I have to take a moment to mention Black Box Wines. I am not one for product endorsements. If I like something, I say it, but all the free stuff I get in the mail or at events hardly ever makes it to the pages of my blog. I received a box of Cabernet Sauvignon from Black Box at a Foodbuzz dinner at Spruce, and I can’t stop drinking it (for completely different reasons why I couldn’t stop drinking boxed wine in college.) I love that you can close the box, which equals four bottles of wine, and it won’t go bad for about a month. Alejandro is a beer drinker, so I often feel obligated to drink more than I should, lest the wine should spoil. Anyway, it’s wine, in a box, and it’s really tasty.
Duck Fat Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds and Cranberries
1 pound Brussels sprouts
Handful raw almonds, crushed in a mortar with a pestle
Handful fresh pecans, crushed in a mortar with a pestle
Handful of dried cranberries
¼ cup of rendered duck fat
Sea Salt, Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat your oven to 450F. Peel off the outer most leaves of each Brussels sprout. Roll the leaves like a cigar, and cut into long strips.
Slowly melt duck fat in a small saucepan.
Cut off and discard the bottom of each sprout, and cut them in half. Arrange single file on a roasting sheet. Drizzle duck fat over sprouts, gently covering each one. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until they brown. Shake the pan around once while roasting.
Heat up a small cast iron skillet and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the crushed nuts and cook for about two minutes, until fragrant. Add the chiffonaded Brussels sprout leaves, stir, and continue cooking for two more minutes. The leaves should still be bright green and not quite wilted. Throw in dried cranberries and cook for one more minute.
Dish the nuts and cranberries until a bowl, spoon Brussels sprouts on top, and sprinkle on a tad more salt. To serve as a main course, serve over brown or wild rice.
Where I shopped:
Organic Brussels sprouts: Temescal Farmers’ Market, Oakland
Raw almonds and pecans: Temescal Farmers’ Market, Oakland
Dried cranberries: Monterey Market, Berkeley
Rendered Duck Fat: Ver Brugge, Oakland