Sunday, September 9, 2012

Brussels Sprouts and Carrot Ragout

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap, and undeservedly so. Because my parents had only been forced to eat them in the tasteless, overdone way of the 1950s, I was never subjected to them as a child. As an adult, I discovered Brussels sprouts through a winter CSA, and I've since come to really look forward to beginning of their season each year. I typically roast them, with a different Susie Middleton recipe being my absolute favorite way to prepare them. Susie Middleton undoubtedly knows her way around veggies, so when these popped up for the first time this year, I wasted no time trying out this Brussels sprouts recipe from her new cookbook. Sweet carrots and beautifully caramelized onions turn out to be the perfect companion these slightly bitter mini-cabbages, punctuated by a hint of pungent Dijon and a suite of acidic accents. I had this as a main dish over brown rice with a sprinkling of hazelnuts over the top, but it would be splendid as a side dish without. The butter and olive oil make this much more luxurious that you'd typically expect a vegetable dish to be and substantial enough to be satisfying. This recipe is a fitting transition from summer to fall eating, and a great way to introduce (or re-introduce) yourself to an unjustifiably maligned vegetable.

Brussels Sprouts and Carrot Ragout
adapted from The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton
serves 2 or 3, or 4 with rice

3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (with 1 1/2 tablespoons cut into 6 pieces and kept chilled in the refrigerator)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
12 ounces Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and quartered
Kosher salt
3/4 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch-long and 3/8- to 1/2-inch wide sticks
1/2 pound cipollini onions, peeled and cut through the stem end into 3/4-inch wide wedges (imagine slicing a pizza)
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
Sliced fresh chives for garnish (optional)
Short-grain brown rice for serving (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts for garnish (optional)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, mustard, lemon zest, and vinegar. In a large Dutch oven or other deep, wide pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the Brussels sprouts and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the sprouts are all browned and tender but still somewhat firm, 10 to 14 minutes. (They will continue to cook a bit off the heat). If they are browning too fast, reduce the heat a bit. Be sure to replace the lid after stirring; it retains moisture for steaming the veggies. Transfer the sprouts to a plate and take the pan off the heat for a moment.

2. Return the pan to medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently but gently, until the carrots are tender but not mushy (you can test with a paring knife) and nicely browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer the carrots to the plate with the Brussels sprouts. You will have some browning on the bottom of the pan.

3. Reduce the heat to low and add 1 tablespoons of the oil, the onions, and a big pinch of salt to the pan. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are browned and tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (They will have lost their stiffness and opacity and a few will be falling apart). Uncover, add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the carrots and Brussels sprouts to the pan and add the peas and orange juice mixture. Stir well, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and continue to cook just until the vegetables have absorbed almost all the liquid. (This will happen quickly.) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cold butter, a few pieces at a time, just until melted and creamy. Stir in the chopped tarragon.

4. Serve immediately, garnished with the chives (if using) or serve it over the brown rice, garnished with hazelnuts (if you like).

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