There was a time not long ago when hearing the words “Brussels sprouts” and “yummy” in the same breath could throw me into paroxysms of uncontrollable mirth — roaring belly laughs and knee-slapping guffaws were sure to ensue. Indeed, the thought that these little miniature cabbagy-looking things from the Brassica family of vegetables could be tasty was the very height of risibility… except when I think back to the torture inflicted on me as a child with these nefarious green bulbs of doom. It wasn’t funny back then, I tell you.
Ah, how things change as we mature. I long ago ceased to look upon Brussels sprouts with dread the way I did in my youth, but neither had I developed any kind of a fondness for them because most cooking methods could not overcome (and often accentuated) the inherit bitterness that lurks in this plant, waiting to savage the unsuspecting palate (okay, maybe a tiny bit of hyperbole there — old prejudices die hard). Nevertheless, culinary school instilled in me a new sense of adventure and a willingness to lay aside old biases and discover afresh the possibilities of ingredients I had once disdained.
Which brings me to today’s post.
One of my favorite magical ingredients in the kitchen — my “cheats” if you will — is agave nectar. It’s a potent sweetener that, unlikely honey with its very distinctive taste, is flavor-neutral. It lends sweetness only, and thus is able to work wonders to balance harsh or bitter flavors from other ingredients. That makes it perfect for this recipe — Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Shallots. Here are your ingredients to make 3-4 servings:
- 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts
- 1 large shallot
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Kosher salt and cracked pepper
- 1 tbsp. agave nectar
Start by washing the sprouts, and cut off the stems. Split them in half length-wise, lay the pieces flat, and slice them up cross-wise to shred. The shallot can be diced small or sliced thin, according to your preference. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium flame, then add the shredded sprouts and shallots. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the agave nectar. Cook about 10-15 minutes until the sprouts are tender. You may want to reduce the heat to avoid excessive caramelization –but a little bit is good to bring out a bit more natural sweetness. If you’re feeling adventurous, sprinkle in a little red chili flakes to give a hint of heat.
There you have it — the vegetable dish that has become our new favorite here at Chez Dave. This batch was served with pan-seared pork chops and sweet cinnamon apples. We munched it down with a big happy grin on our faces, and I know you will too when you try this recipe. Until our next get-together: Eat well, my friends!