Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Cookbook Adventures: Funky Brussels Sprouts

Part Two of my Sunday Cookbook Experiment this week was from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky.Unlike Aquavit, I've cooked a few things out of this book over the years, a couple of which have become go-to dishes that I absolutely love. I enjoy the way the recipes are laid out, separating dishes out into the prep of each component, then giving plating instructions as well as "tasting notes" (which I think is a cool idea to apply to food instead of wine). There are apparently 14 elements of taste, and Sunday night's recipe came from the "Funky" section of the book. The authors write of the ingredients in this chapter "Clearly we are talking about a wide group of ingredients that are different in every respect except one: they are, for want of a better term, 'stinky.'" Heh. The recipe in question is Apple, Brussels Sprout, and Turnip Hash:
I've had this page marked for years, in part because I love Brussels sprouts and in part because the picture is so very very pretty. I had high hopes for the recipe, given my success in other areas of the book, but it was a bit odd. The proportions just seemed... off, especially given that the picture features 90% Brussels sprouts plus a bit of apple and turnip and features no visible bacon. The recipe called for 1/2 pound of Brussels sprouts, 2 Granny Smith apples, 1 "large" white turnip, and 8-10 slices of bacon. I wanted a double batch, but that didn't seem like enough sprouts, so I used 5 times the suggested amount of brussels sprouts, twice as much apple, only the one large turnip (you'll see why), and 16 slices of bacon (this is for 6 servings, but that is still a copious amount of bacon...), and ended up with something that had about the same amount of Brussels sprouts as it did apples and turnips... Hmm... Anyway, I blanched the sprouts before pan-searing in some butter:
Then seared the chopped apples in the same pan with bit more butter:No matter how high I crank the heat, I can never seem to get proper caramelization on apples before they start to get too soft for my liking... If anyone reading this has been successful in this endeavor, please let me know how in the comments. Meanwhile, I crisped up the ridiculous amount of bacon in the oven:These components were set aside,
and then the instructions got strange. Below is my solitary large turnip, diced and ready to be "simmered" in 1/2 cup of cider vinegar (double the recommended amount, since this was nominally a double-batch). I'm not sure how you "simmer" 3 cups of turnip in 1/4 cup or even 1/2 cup of vinegar... "Steam," maybe.. but "simmer"?I put a lid on the pan and went with the "steam" approach, and when the turnips started to soften I combined with the Brussels sprouts:After stirring in the apples and bacon, I tossed a pile of the hash onto a plate. (I don't think you can do a particularly awesome plating with a dish as intentionally rustic as "hash"... but I do need to get some better lighting in my kitchen for this picture-taking thing...)
Since this is a side dish, I decided to roast a pork loin to serve it on the side of. I rubbed the loin with a couple teaspoons of bacon fat and a hearty sprinkle of super-coarse sea salt, then tossed it into the oven during the last 20 minutes or so that the hash was cooking.I plated up a few slices with my hash, and it was (finally) dinner time.
So, this experiment was... interesting. The hash actually tastes fantastic. The saltiness of the bacon, sweetness of the apples, earthiness of the turnips, brightness of the vinegar, and "funkiness" of the Brussels sprouts are a beautiful combination. The hash was perfect with the pork loin, and I think the bacon fat rub on the loin before roasting was sort of brilliant and managed to enhance the pairing. In the end I think I would call this experiment a success. I'll probably play some more with the proportions in the future, but I definitely see this entering the repertoire throughout Brussels sprout season. And I still apparently suck at following recipes...


Midge said...

This looks good enough to almost tempt me into liking brussels sprouts . . . almost.

Stanley said...

Did I mention yet how much I enjoy coming here and not finding only bunnies? I did? Oh well.

And yes, you still suck at following recipes. Next time do what they tell you! Or don't...what do I know?

emmo said...

The problem with these last couple recipes is that if I followed them then I would have ended up with something completely different from what I was trying to make. If I followed this recipe, the hash would have been 5 Brussels sprouts mixed into a giant pile of turnips... which would have made me cranky.

I'll be doing something out of one of my Thomas Keller books next, and I always do (almost) exactly what he tells me. I think trusting a chef is key to being willing to blindly follow their recipe. =)