Winter’s seasonal pleasures: Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Golden Raisins and Linguine

by Terry B on January 27, 2010

Many flavors come together to create a complex, satisfying and surprisingly mild seasonal pasta dish. Recipe below.

brussels-sprouts-pasta

Brussels sprouts get a totally undeserved bad rap. I think much of it comes from our national suspicion of vegetables in general. And much of that stems from bad or at least unimaginative cooking. Too many cooks treat vegetables as an afterthought, something to be boiled beyond mushy and then seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Of course many of us learn to fear vegetables from our parents. They hated them as kids and expect us to hate them too. So we do.

Whatever the reason for this collective aversion, hiding vegetables has become an industry all its own. Campbell’s V8 Juice first turned them into juice, so you could drink them. Now they’ve launched V8 Fusion, which hides vegetables in clear fruit juices.

Jessica Seinfeld wrote an entire cookbook, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food, based on the premise of sneaking vegetables and other good things into kids’ meals. Which is fine, except that one day those kids grow up and have no idea how to eat stuff that’s good for them. And along with that spaghetti and meatballs with the hidden kale and mac and cheese with hidden puréed cauliflower, they’ve been fed the hidden message that vegetables taste bad and should be avoided.

Even though you’re here reading a food blog and perhaps writing one of your own, I’m guessing you’ve had vegetable issues in your past. I certainly did. Maybe you still do. If so, it’s time to stop relying on memories of childhood taste buds and see what a little imaginative cooking can do. Otherwise, you’re going to miss out on a lot of grown-up culinary pleasures.

Which brings us back to Brussels sprouts. Even among vegetable lovers, they can be a tough sell. They’re related to cabbage, a deal breaker in its own right for some. And if you have them boiled, cabbage is pretty much what you get—boiled cabbage, at that. But properly prepared, they’re quite mild—milder than broccoli, in fact—but with a satisfying tang. As more chefs embrace seasonal cooking, this humble winter vegetable is turning up on upscale restaurant menus and turning heads.

In this dish, they’re first sautéed with shallots in bacon fat and olive oil, then braised in chicken broth and vermouth. Golden raisins add a sweet note without being overpowering. The result, if I say so myself, is sublime.

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Golden Raisins and Linguine
Serves 2 generously or 3 modestly

1 tablespoon olive oil + extra
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
3/4 cup thickly sliced shallots, about 2 medium [you can also use yellow onion]
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup vermouth
1/2 cup golden raisins
freshly grated Parmesan [optional]

6 to 8 ounces linguine [see Kitchen Notes]

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add oil and bacon and sauté, stirring occasionally, until bacon is cooked but not overly crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Add quartered Brussels sprouts and shallots to pan and sauté until Brussels sprouts are starting to brown in spots, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drizzle on a little more olive oil if the pan seems dry. Add broth, vermouth and raisins to pan and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce to simmer, cover pan and braise until Brussels sprouts are just tender when pierced by a paring knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. Return bacon to pan and cook until warmed through.

Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and toss with a little olive oil. Divide pasta among individual plates or bowls. Top with Brussels sprouts mixture and serve, sprinkling with Parmesan, if desired.

Kitchen Notes

Pasta portions. If you’re serving two, cook six ounces of pasta. Cook eight ounces if you’re serving three.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

joan Nova January 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I like this combination. I think using raisins is derived from Sicily. I’ve also done it with sardines and other green vegetables.

thedelishdish January 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm

i love brussel sprouts on their own but i think this would really take them up a level! im sure this recipe would make anyone like them!

Terry B January 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Joan Nova—If not actually original to Sicily, it certainly makes sense that the use of raisins in savory dishes is prevalent there. To quote that impeccable reference Wikipedia, “The Sicilian cuisine shows traces of all the cultures which established themselves on the island over the last two millennia. Although considered an Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Spanish, Greek and Arab influences.” Raisins show up in a lot of North African and Mediterranean cuisine in general.

Thanks, thedelishdish!

Brooke January 27, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Salivating!

Christina January 27, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I’ve never had veggie issues, but my husband certainly does. No matter how I dress things up, “green” is always the first “flavor” he sees, and therefore, sometimes will reject a dish without the respect of a taste. But, I’m not sure he’s ever tried Brussels sprouts, and since it’s a new vegetable, and because this recipe looks so delicious, it just might work. If one wanted to take the meat out, one could replace the bacon with oil cured olives for a similar salty smack of flavor. This is great–you’ve got my brain going. Thanks, Terry B!

Dani H January 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I love brussel sprouts, even just steamed with balsamic or red wine vinegar. In fact, I adore almost all vegetables. Except eggplant. I love how they look before being cut, though. One of the most beautiful vegetables around and so many varieties. Sorry for veering off-topic. This recipe sounds incredible! I’m really into shallots right now, too. Thanks, Terry!

Dacia January 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

I feel the same way about the Jessica Seinfeld book! Someone gave me a copy and it has been sitting on my bookshelf unused for years.

This looks like a fabulous recipe–the raisins must add such a nice touch.

I just started blogging about feeding my kid good food at eatitkid.com. Feel free to stop by if you’d like!

Terry B January 27, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Thanks, Brooke!

Christina—Good luck with getting ECG to “go green.” Not sure about the olives, though. Brussels sprouts are a pretty big flavor, and so are olives—I don’t think they’d play too nicely together. If you really want to skip the bacon—and I’d recommend trying it with because the bacon adds so much to this dish—I’d maybe add pine nuts or some kind of nuts and definitely use a generous hand with the Parmesan. The bacon does more than just a salty/savory thing in this dish, it adds the fatty richness that balances the Brussels sprouts’ tang.

Dani—It took some doing to get me to like eggplant. I credit Chinese food for helping me embrace. And yes, they use different eggplants, but that got me over the hump. Shallots really are great, aren’t they? Kind of a mix of onion and garlic. And even minced and added to a salad dressing raw, they don’t give you onion breath.

Thanks, Dacia! And good luck with your new blog.

ken mac January 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

glorious! And LL still has music…

Rob January 29, 2010 at 12:32 am

Well thanks, I’ll try this. I enjoy all sorts of vegetables, except Brussel Sprouts. As a kid, my mother would “cook” up these little green orbs of culinary death. I think it was the ’70′s style of preparing food – hideously. It was the era of vegetables in Jell-o.

Chef Dad January 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Also remember that Mrs. Seinfeld was sued by a lady who wrote yet another book about hiding veggies, so there is even more of that going around. My mother cooked veggies until they joined the ranks of the undead. She’s in her 80s now and if I cook for her and make the mistake of leaving any life in them, I hear about how raw they are. My own kids, however, love brussels sprouts and we have them in the winter garden here in Austin.

Laura January 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm

What a great looking dish! I’ve seen loads of pancetta and brussels sprouts recipes, but the idea of combining it with pasta and throwing in some raisins is so inspired! And vermouth is always an addition that I’m in favor of…couldn’t agree with you more about this whole idea of “hiding” veggies by the way. Totally counterproductive…

Terry B January 30, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Thanks, Ken Mac! And everyone, the LL he refers to is Lenox Lounge in Harlem. He had a photo of this iconic spot on his blog recently, which caused me to raise the question.

Rob—I think you’ll find the bacon, broth and the Parmesan mellow the sprouts’ flavor, as does the sautéing them before braising.

Chef Dad—My kids used to resist certain vegetables when they were small, as all kids do, but by finding good ways to cook them and offering a variety of them, we avoided demonizing the entire category. As a result, our girls are quite adventurous eaters now.

Thanks, Laura! At first, I toyed with adding a little white wine, but decided that would be too acidic with the sprouts. Vermouth added a nice, subtle extra without any acid.

Sean Thomas McGill February 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Brussel sprouts are the one those foods that I don’t work with very often, but this sounds delicious!

Kelley (Fat Girl Gone Thin) February 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I am obsessed with brussel sprouts and never seem to have enough recipes to include them in. Love the idea of serving this up over a bed of noodles!

maris February 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm

This sounds amazing — I love brussels sprouts and think they’re so underrated.

Madame Fromage February 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Wow, my inner leaf-lover is salivating over this. An unusual combination and yet I can imagine it working. Can’t wait to give it a try. Maybe with a slice of Taleggio on top?

Terry B February 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Thanks, Sean, Kelley and Maris!

Madame Fromage—Taleggio sounds like it would be a delicious substitute for the Parmesan!

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