Many flavors come together to create a complex, satisfying and surprisingly mild seasonal pasta dish. Recipe below.
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.
Pasta portions. If you’re serving two, cook six ounces of pasta. Cook eight ounces if you’re serving three.