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July 26th, 2015

Creating a new recipe often starts with a memory of something once consumed in a restaurant, or seen on a cooking show, or described in a book, or simply photographed in an old Gourmet magazine. My memory for food is freakishly detailed and vast. If that same capacity extended to all other facets of life, I’d be remarkable, but it doesn’t and I’m not!

In Moby Dick, Melville goes into such rapture over Clam Chowder that it lasts for an entire chapter. Rapture worthy or not, I’ve never been a fan of Clam Chowder, but the memory of that passage can easily inspire an Alder-Smoked Salmon Chowder, Lobster Chowder or just a simple Corn ‘n Tater Chowder!

I was age six or seven when Julia Child’s show, The French Chef, featured a French Apple Tart. While constructing a blanket-shrouded fort in the TV room, construction had to pause whilst I became mesmerized by Julia’s episode and those twenty minutes became an inspiration over the next decades.  I only recently found the actual recipe and was pleased to discover that my recall was not far off!

Riffs on notable preparations in restaurants are, perhaps, the backbone of my recipe repertoire, and among my favorites are Pizza Buns from Brazil, Joe’s Special from California, Peanut Soup from Virginia, Kalbi from Korea, Huevos Rancheros from Belize, meat-filled Pelmeni from Russia, Garlic-Soy Bib Salad from China, and, I should never have uncorked this genii in a bottle. The list is endless!

A gastropub in New Hampshire is the inspiration for today’s appetizer. The chef deep fries Brussels Sprouts and dresses them with frizzled prosciutto, shaved Parmesan, toasted walnuts and a brief dribble of olive oil. My spin is shallow-fried in a cast iron skillet, keeping the Brussels crisp-tender and caramelized, with crumbled bacon, Asiago, the walnuts and olive oil and a bright squirt of lemon!

One big happy calorie, gratefully inspired!

Gastropub Brussels Sprouts

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Gastropub Brussels Sprouts

Inspired by a gastropub in Concord, New Hampshire. One big happy calorie! Be sure to prepare all the garnishes prior to cooking the Brussels Sprouts!

Four modest servings as a side dish, or enjoyed by many as an appetizer:

  • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts, young, firm and bright green, trimmed and halved, rinsed and dried
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1/3 cup raw walnut halves
  • ¼ cup (or more) Asiago cheese, coarsely grated or shaved
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Bacon fat
  • Lemon wedges
  • Smoked sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper (optional)

Cook the bacon until crisp and drain on a paper towel. Crumble when cool. Reserve bacon fat.

Flash fry the walnuts in a small amount of peanut oil and some of the bacon fat. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Chop to desired size.

Coarsely grate or shave as much Asiago as you think appropriate and wrap in waxed paper and store, until needed, in the refrigerator.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 2-3 tablespoons of peanut oil and 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat until hot. Add the Brussels Sprouts and sauté rapidly, stirring and tossing, until caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a lid until desired tenderness is achieved. Season with smoked sea salt and ground pepper.

Assemble the dish:

Tumble the warm Brussels Sprouts into a serving dish or dishes. Sprinkle on the bacon crumbs, shaved Asiago, and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and serve lemon wedges on the side.

Copyright © Katherine Stetson, all rights reserved.