I have to admit that even though I can execute in the kitchen, most of my best creations are based off of recipes from other fine chefs. Luckily for me, my job has opened many doors for me as far as meeting great chefs, and a more intimate understanding of cooking techniques, robust flavor combinations and dynamic presentation. Basically, a working knowledge of what goes well together, and what doesn’t.
Growing up, I never liked brussel sprouts. Who does, anyway? They are green, bitter, and if not cooked properly, can be tough to eat. I never really gave them a fair shot until I began working for my company. I decided very early on that if I was going to be working for a cutting edge restaurant group, I would need to approach my food fears and reservations head-on. And that I have! Thanks to Chef Brian Malarkey and his team of executive chefs at all of our locations, I have gotten over my phobias of oysters, mussels and most notable, brussels!
For Christmas this year, I got my dad a signed copy of Brian’s first cookbook Come Early, Stay Late. One of the main reasons I clamored over this book was for the recipe for any of our location’s infamous brussels (yes they are all sightly different, and yes they are all equally a-maz-ing). And let me tell you, they are just as good at home as they are at Searsucker. I had successfully executed the recipe verbatim as it came in the book for Christmas dinner, but at home recently, I didn’t have the book handy to guide me. I wanted to achieve the same salty-sweetness that makes this side so delectable, but didn’t have any hot peppers or anchovies around to supplement the sauce. So what did I do? I made due with what I had. [I like to make use of what is available to me in my home, and also think that making game time decisions makes for spontaneous success in my dishes.]
Here is my shortened and simplified on-the-fly recipe for Brian’s brussels:
1 bag of Trader Joe’s brussel sprouts
1 bag of shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 strips of cooked applewood smoked bacon
2 tablespoons of EVOO
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
sea salt and black pepper to taste
First, you will want to quarter all of your brussels. I find they cook faster, and slicing them open allows for the flavors to get in between the layers of the veggie. Before I got too far ahead of myself, I cooked a few strips of bacon in the oven to crispy perfection. You can make as much or as little bacon as you like for this. I then chopped my bacon and my walnuts and set them aside. Heat a couple tablespoons of EVOO in your pan on medium heat. Once it heats up, throw the brussels in your saucepan and put a lid on it to allow them to cook all the way through. After they seemed softened, remove the lid and add the nuts and bacon. Kick the heat on your pan up a notch to medium-high to achieve that nice crisp on the outside. Once the brussels start to brown, add a tablespoon or so of balsamic glaze. Again, you can add more or less at your discretion, but I only used about a tablespoon to start, and then added another drizzle once they were plated. Salt and pepper to taste and BAM, you got brussels with muscle!