Thursday, December 27, 2012

Brussels Sprouts For Me and You

I grew up hating brussels sprouts! The texture of those mushy, boiled, smelly little cabbagey orbs was unendurable. Thank goodness we seldom had them. My revelation that they could be delicious happened in a restaurant in Berkeley (the name escapes me). The sprouts were shredded, sauteed in brown butter and anointed with lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste, of course. On the way out I stuck my head in the kitchen and talked to the cooks, as I am prone to do. They cheerfully gave me the above rundown.

So I had this great idea for Christmas dinner this year: brussels sprouts shredded, cooked in rendered pancetta fat and not only anointed with lemon juice but bejeweled with coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Oops, I forgot the L.J., as I was stressing over the fact that my hand made puff pastry sank into my beef pot pie (it was still delicious). Please don’t forget the L.J., the acidity will help cut the richness of your main dish. Anyway, here’s how I did it. Ingredient amounts are loosey goosey. Cook with your eyes as well as your taste buds!

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

About 1 ½ lbs brussels sprouts, stem ends sliced off
2-3 ounces pancetta, cut across into ¼” lardons (slices)
¼-ish cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped with a knife
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice

In a large saute pan over medium heat, brown your pancetta. Remove pancetta, reserving rendered fat in pan. Meanwhile If you have a food processor, using the slicing disc, drop sprouts into the feed tube, and push through (while running of course).

Cook the shredded sprouts until you are getting caramelized spots and you like the texture. You will probably have to add olive oil to the pan, as for some reason pancetta, which is unsmoked bacon, doesn’t release that much fat. This will take just a few minutes.

Add the pancetta back in along with the hazelnuts, salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze in some lemon juice, just enough for brightness. Enjoy the deliciousness.

Note: be sure to have your vent hood running to help minimize permeating your house with brussels sprout smell.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Potato of Another Color

I have been working on my Christmas dinner menu and am continuing my rebellion against turkey. You see, growing up we always had turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well. My father loved it so there we were. I only liked to gnaw on the wing, although I admit the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven is heavenly. And that golden crispy skin is delightful. However, I am all grown up and recently realized I can cook whatever I want, within reason. Last year I made Beef Wellington Pot Pie, which was a big hit (it’s on my blog) and I am going to make it again. This year, though I’m skipping the mashed potatoes and making potato galettes, thinly sliced potatoes layered with two cheeses and baked until tender and dark golden. I tried it out yesterday and it was a hit, so it’s a go! So just in case you want to try something new, you can cook these potato galettes.

You will need a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, as well as a mandolin or equivalent for thinly slicing the potatoes. I used Manchego because it has a little more flavor than parmesan, and Comte because I don’t like gruyere, but you can use gruyere if you prefer. Heck, go wild and use any cheese you want!

Cheesy Potato Galettes

Serves 6 as a side dish

1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
1 ½ lbs Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled
2 tsps fresh thyme
Kosher salt
2/3 cup finely grated Manchego or other hard cheese
1 ¼ cup finely grated Comte cheese

Gently cook shallots and oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Soften, don’t brown the shallots (about 2 minutes). Let cool.

Heat oven to 400° and rub inside tart pan with oil.

Slice potatoes 1/16 inch thick with the mandolin and toss potatoes with the shallots, thyme and oil in a bowl to thoroughly coat.

Cover the bottom of the tart pan with potatoes, overlapping slightly. Lay them down in concentric rings, starting from the outer edge of pan. Salt the first layer, then sprinkle ¼ of the cheeses evenly over the potatoes. Repeat to make 4 layers, ending with salt and cheese.

Bake galette for up to 50 minutes, until potatoes are tender and cheese is reddish golden brown. Let the galette cool in the tart pan for 10 or 15 minutes; gently remove from ring. Cut into wedges and serve, gently removing with a thin metal spatula (a fish spatula works great).

You can also make in a square tart pan and cut into squares to serve as appetizers.