Last year, on the lookout for a way to bring brussels sprouts into the Thanksgiving meal (we've always been more of a green bean family), I stumbled across Zak Pelaccio's (he of Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue) recipe for the most obscene sprouts ever conceived. Bascially, you render the fat out of half a pound of bacon, then cook two pounds of sprouts in it - oh, and then you add heavy cream and good maple syrup, just in case you were worried that the recipe wasn't quite festive enough.
I tested the recipe first on a few willing victims at Thanksgiving, then pulled it out again for Christmas dinner at Nick & Louisa's in Austin. When this year's feast rolled around, I petitioned my Aunt Cathi, the hostess, for a spot on the menu for these little balls of goodness. Permission was granted, and the sprouts rode again.
I've tweaked the original a bit; Pelaccio added chestnuts to his, but since chestnuts aren't my most favorite nut - and are, in fact, a pain in the ass to roast and peel - I've left them out. As you all know, I like a bit of acid and heat with my rich flavors, so I've added a bit of red pepper for kick.
Need I say that they've been requested for the upcoming Christmas feast? I'll say it any case: these will be appearing on my table at least one more time in 2011, and I think you should give them a try as well.
Queenie's Holiday Sprouts
Adapted from Zak Pelaccio
1/2 pound applewood bacon, cut into 1/4 inch batons
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme
1 tsp. dried red pepper
3/4 cup cream
Scant 1/4 cup good maple syrup
Juice of half a lemon
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, render the fat out of the bacon until it is nearly crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, but leave the fat in the pan.
Add the sprouts to the pan, season with a generous amount of sea salt, and saute until they begin to get brown, about 4 minutes or so. Add the garlic, thyme and red pepper and saute until the garlic turns golden, another 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the cream. Cook gently until the cream has reduced by half; it will also turn a golden brown, thanks to the goodness on the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and the reserved bacon to the pan, and cook for a few minutes. Squeeze the lemon over the sprouts. Taste for seasoning (add more salt and red pepper as needed) and serve.
Serves 8 as a side dish.