Food & Spirits: Try these Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have always gotten a bad wrap, and I do not know why. Yes, they are like little cabbages, but if prepared the right way, a world of flavor can be opened. The other night, I wanted to make them as a side dish, and tried experimenting. My mom has long made them using bacon bits and a balsamic vinegar glaze, which comes out heavenly. We got this idea from a restaurant we ate at a few times, Tre Amici in Long Branch, that used to saute the sprouts in butter and pancetta. I thought back to that, and since we had prosciutto in the house, I figured I would use that as the meaty addition. Forgive me because I am not a chef, so the following recipe or description isn’t really exact. Whenever I cook, I take the “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” approach until I find the flavor I am looking for. I ended up making a mistake while cooking this. How I corrected that mistake became one of the best cooking accidents that ever happened to me.

Start out with a bag of frozen Brussels Sprouts, which still retain a lot of their freshness (canned is a big no-no, but don’t be afraid to use frozen vegetables). Follow the directions on the bag and cook them while microwaving in the bag. I believe two minutes gets the job done. Get a saute pan together and pour a little bit of olive oil (regular, not extra virgin) and a few spoonfuls of butter. Add three slices of prosciutto, which you can either cut up into strips or rip with your hands if you want a more rustic look. After getting them good and browned, add the sprouts and cook until they become only slightly browned themselves. Here’s where my mistake came in: I am so used to adding salt and pepper to everything when I cook that I over-did it on the salt. The prosciutto already being salty led my eyes to pop out of their sockets when I tested the first one. Yikes. This dish is ruined. I quickly thought that the one way to fix salty is with sweet, so I went to the pantry and dusted the sprouts with brown sugar. After a few more additional minutes of cooking, I tasted it and the flavor was amazing. The brown sugar ended up caramelizing to the point where the prosciutto became almost candied. That sweetness and texture combined with the now-crunchy Brussels Sprouts led to an awesome burst of flavor.

The picture came out a little too blurry, but you get the idea.
The picture came out a little too blurry, but you get the idea.

I still thought they were a little too salty, so as a mental note for next time, I’ll just add less. The dish was a homerun. Some great dishes are born out of accidents, and this is one of them. I’m not saying this is groundbreaking because there may be a million such recipes already online. This one is mine, and a record of my experience. Give it a try. The above paragraph isn’t exact, but with a little of your own judgment and tweaking, you will be fine.

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