Thursday, September 19, 2013

Comfort Food: Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

The recent shift in temperatures means it's time for the shift to comfort food. (Hallelujah!) Something warm, possibly with cheese, and filling the house with delicious smells. Unfortunately, at this point of my pregnancy, (35 weeks and 6 days) I haven't been able to stomach heavy foods. Aside from a little bread in the morning with salt butter and confiture, it's been mostly fruit, vegetables, juice and seltzer water spritzers, broth-like soups and apple sauce for this mama-to-be.  
Comfort food is just that for me, a return to a place, a time, a coziness. The recipe that I'm going to share with you today comes from the very first cookbook I ever bought back in 2008, called "Super Natural Cooking," by Heidi Swanson. This is not only the year I began to teach myself to cook, but also the same time that I met Doc, so I always associate this book with good things to come. Every recipe I've made from this book has not only been delicious, but also healthy. If you're looking for a way to incorporate more whole/clean/whatever-the-new-trendy-word-for-it-is-I-just-call-it-eating-healthy foods into your diet, this is a great starter book. She talks a lot about different grains and ingredients that may be new to some people (they were to me at the time), so it's also a bit of an education as well. She's also got a new cookbook out, called "Super Natural Everyday," though I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet. (Cough cough Chrismukkah is coming up cough cough...)  
The shift in temperatures have also brought the return of one of my favorite comfort foods: Brussels sprouts. It seems a little early to me for their return to the Migros shelves, but it's been a weird summer here in France for produce. I don't know about you, but I LOVE Brussels sprouts. Pretty much any way I can get them. But like all things, I do have a favorite way of preparing them, and Heidi Swanson's Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts recipe (p. 151) from "Super Natural Cooking" is it.
Another reason this dish makes me smile? Preparing this dish back in late January gave me one of the first signs that I was pregnant, a full two weeks before I got a positive pregnancy test result. How? Because while trimming the raw Brussels sprouts I became nauseated at their smell, something that had never happened before. I was eating this for lunch post-yoga just about every day at the time, and every time I prepped this dish I noticed that I could no longer stand the smell of them raw. Luckily they were still delicious after being cooked, despite my new pregger-powered-super-duper sense of smell.
So, without further ado.
Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
 24 Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, plus more in a small dish for rubbing flat halves of Brussels sprouts in before cooking
Fine grain sea salt
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1/3 cup of the grated cheese of your choice - my favorite is parmigiana, but gruyere works well too, it's just a bit gooey and doesn't equally disperse as well)  
1. Let your Brussels sprouts soak for 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water. This helps to loosen up any dirt or raggedy leaves that will be trimmed off.
2. After soaking, trim the stems and remove any loose or raggedy leaves. Cut the sprout in half from stem to top, and rub each flat half in olive oil, keeping the shape intact.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat.
4. Place the Brussels sprouts in the pan, flat side down, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cover and cook for 5 - 8 minutes (5 minutes gets you golden-crusted, 8 minutes gets you brown-crusted...depends on how well done you like your sprouts).
5. Once tender and goldened/browned to your liking, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to move them around on the skillet for a minute or two to get some browning on the rounded size.
6. Serve up in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add grated cheese.  Bon ap!
The book says this serves 4. I like to make this for lunch so I don't have to share them with anyone. I have no problem finishing all of them by myself, but like I said, I really like Brussels sprouts, especially cooked this way. If you're ok with sharing, and have a good appetite, I would say this only serves 2 as a side. I'm always left wanting a little more when Doc and I have this as a side with dinner.

The sprouts in the above picture were left to cook, covered, for 9 minutes. I like my sprouts pretty well done, but I'd suggest letting them cook for 5 minutes the first time around, until you figure out how brown you want yours to turn out.
How about you? What's your favorite comfort food?
A la prochaine friends...

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