I, too, remember the dark days of Brussel Sprouts. They came frozen in 6 inch x 6 inch x 2 inch white-packaged bricks, boiling them to death was the only known cooking method, and frankly, they tasted faintly of urine. However, in the early 1980s, I worked at the restaurant that might have served as the starting point for their slooooooow comeback to respectability. The Commissary, part of a Philadelphia empire of restaurants owned by Steve Poses, would split them in two vertically, blanche them for 1 minute, immediately shock them in cold water to stop cooking, and then drain them thoroughly. When called for, the second cook would sauce them in butter, top with crumbled bacon and salt and pepper, then serve as a side dish.
The recent trend in Brussel Sprouts seems to consist of oven roasting them whole without blanching. It’s OK, but sometimes the stems are not quite done. This past weekend I had about 12 ounces of sprouts–largely because what the heck, why not?–and thought I night try something slightly different. I knew that freshly grated nutmeg is the secret ingredient to great creamed spinach (weird if you think about it, but it does work); I knew that many Chinese recipes include both cabbage and ginger. So let’s have fun.
Pan-Seared and Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Nutmeg & Ginger
- 12 ounces Brussel Sprouts, washed, drained on paper towels, stem ends trimmed, split in half vertically.
- 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 0.5 – 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (and it has to be freshly grated)
- 0.5 – 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Put Brussel Sprout halves in a bowl.
- Toss with oil then with salt and pepper. I like to go light on the salt and heavy-ish on the pepper.
- Heat saute pan to medium-high. I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
- Working in batches, place Brussel Sprouts cut side down on the skillet.
- Leave untouched for 3 minutes. Check for a nice light to medium brown sear on the cut sides. If you have the sear, transfer cut side up to an ungreased baking sheet.
- If too light in color, let sear for 1-2 minutes only, then transfer to sheet.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven. Ten minutes if you like crunchy, fifteen if you prefer a softer texture.
- Transfer to a heat-proof serving bowl.
- Sprinkle the nutmeg and ginger on the sprouts and stir gently until thoroughly coated with the spice blend. I like strong flavors and went with a teaspoon of each. You might want to start with a half teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger if you prefer mild spice flavors.
Serves four as a side dish.
Some notes: Leaves will fall off. That’s fine; you’ll have something to munch on as you work. More importantly, I cannot stress strongly enough the use of freshly grated nutmeg. The complexity of the aroma and flavors make a big difference.
Vonn Scott Bair