There is winter fatigue in our voices. Last year’s drifts and frozen lake still too prominent in our memory to celebrate the start of this year’s snow fall. I tried to buy a new winter coat and several stores were sold out. The clerk relayed, “Everyone’s still haunted by last year.”
Jess told me today that hundreds of pounds of beets and carrots are frozen in the ground. He’s hoping for a mild end to next week to harvest some and finish the new hoop house, but it all depends on the weather. “Last year I rationalized that the ground froze so hard because it was a once in a lifetime winter. This year it happened again, only earlier.”
I feel it too. Our gas bill has already spiked and so I’m writing this from under two wool blankets because we’re keeping the thermostat low. And my fingers and nose are cold.
I feel the weight of the winter that is coming after the bustle of the holiday season passes. Makes me think of the Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The slow, quiet cadence lulling one into the darkness of long winter nights. I know what’s on its way.
But I also know that I have two pounds of Brussels sprouts in the fridge. They were cut from my friend’s garden. Lifted out of a fresh blanket of snow. She said, “unlike the rest of us, snow makes Brussels less bitter.”
And just like that I remembered the promises I have to keep and the miles I have to go before I sleep. Often those obligations take the form of the food that needs to be cooked, either for work or for home. The delight of finding new ways to work our limited cadre of local vegetables into new and interesting permutations helps keep the winter’s icy grasp at bay.
Below are my current favorite iterations of Brussels sprouts. I almost always pair them with some sort of a fat (either dairy or pork) and some sort of an acid (lemon, raw onion, mustard or herbs) to cut through the richness and add some levity to our winter diet.
I know that the days are short and the light that we do get is often a version of gray. But a bowl full of creamy, cheesy sprouts is fine fare and makes the winter feel decadent. Remember that if you tried to eat these dishes in the summer they’d make you feel gross. And if that doesn’t carry any weight, remember that after Christmas the days are only getting longer.
Brussels Sprout with Cream and Cheese
I rarely steam anything, mostly because the idea of getting the whole steamer rig out just makes me boil it instead. But I’ve started shallow steaming because it’s fast and doesn’t require any extra equipment. Simply heat a about ½ inch of water in the bottom of a frying pan, add the veggies and cover. It comes to a boil so quickly and cooks the veggies fast. I like to steam the sprouts before baking them in the gratin to be sure that the cores are tender.
And you can use any sort of melting cheese (or even Parmesan) in a pinch, but Anne and John Hoyt just one a gold and bronze medal for their cheeses at the World Cheese Awards in London. Why buy in something from half way across the globe, when we have world-class products right here in the county.
1 lb brussels sprouts
1 C heavy cream
1 C raclette, Gruyere or any Swiss style melting cheese
½ C milk
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T thyme leaves, picked and chopped
1 C breadcrumbs
- Heat oven to 350
- Remove outer leaves and then cut sprouts in half
- Shallow steam sprouts until bright green (3 min)
- Combine cream, shredded cheese, milk, Dijon and thyme
- Place sprouts in a baking dish, pour cream mixture over and top with breadcrumbs and several good turns of black pepper
- Bake until bubbling
Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts, Fresh Mozzarella, and Pomegranate
We don’t grow pomegranates in our region but they are in season at the same time as the Brussels that we do grow. They’re bright, tart pop give the brassica a lift. If you’d prefer you could use dried cranberries or swap it out for any sort of citrus that is also at its finest right about now.
Tossing the mozzarella with sour cream and some salt elevates it from every day to slightly special fare. This is also a good substitute for burrata (fresh mozzarella with cream in the center), which is hard to find. I usually do several balls at once and pull them from the refrigerator as needed. And if none of this sounds good, you could substitute dots of ricotta or Fromage Blanc.
To seed fresh pomegranates; cut the fruit in half across its equator. Hold the half a fruit in your hand, cut side to palm, and then whack the tops and sides with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds will dislodge and fall into a bowl waiting underneath your holding hand.
½ lb brussels sprouts
½ C hazelnuts, toasted with some skins rubbed off
2 balls fresh mozzarella
½ C sour cream
handful of pomegranate seeds
2 lemons, zest and juice
½ C olive oil
½ bu parsley, roughly chopped
- Tear the mozzarella into rough pieces and toss with the sour cream (I sometimes add some lemon zest too) and a pinch of salt and return to the fridge
- With a sharp knife or mandolin, shave the sprouts into thin, crepe paper like slivers (I like to try to keep some whole but a variety of shapes will do you well)
- Toast the hazelnuts and then with a tea towel rub off half of their skins (some will prefer a totally bald hazelnut, but I like the slight astringency that some of the skins leave)
- Smash the hazelnuts with the bottom of a heavy frying pan (or roughly chop with a knife)
- Combine the shaved sprouts, the lemon juice and zest and olive oil with a good pinch of salt and pepper and let sit for 10 minutes or so
- Just before serving toss the sprouts with the hazelnuts, parsley and pomegranate seeds
- Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired
- Place the marinated mozzarella on the plate or platter and then portion the salad next to it
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pork and Shallot
Raw shallot cuts through the richness of the pork and cabbage flavors. This is sort of a kitchen sink recipe, any pork product you have in the fridge will be at home here. If using something raw like bacon or sausage, cook it first remove and then roast the sprouts. If using salami or prosciutto odds and ends, cut them and add them at the end. Remember to hold your nerve and let the sprouts brown a bit and keep your focus, don’t stir them every 30 seconds if you want to achieve good color.
1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 sprigs of thyme
¼ lb pork product (bacon, sausage, salami, prosciutto, deli ham etc.)
1 shallot, sliced thinly
- Remove the rough outer leaves of the sprouts and cut in half
- Heat a good glug of neutral oil in a frying pan until shimmering
- Add the sprouts and thyme. Roast until dark and caramelly
- Meanwhile, cut the ham or salami into ribbons and toss with the shallot
- Add to the roasted sprouts remove from the heat and toss to combine
- Serve immediately