Sunday, 14 October 2012

Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts

Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts

There are many who eschew the humble brussel sprout, having tasted them boiled, only.  When that happens they really aren’t that good. 
Although I should fully disclose that around the age of nine, I wrote “Ode to a Brussel Sprout” – yes I was that enamoured of them even when they were only boiled.
Had I tasted them pan fried in ghee, I probably would have become an architect and constructed a mile high monument.
The caramelisation process does wonders for everything, especially brussel sprouts.  In the past I’ve used finely diced pancetta to boost the rich caramel taste, but not now with this vegan leaning.  I cannot claim these are vegan though, as the ghee (clarified butter) is strictly prohibited in a pure vegan recipe.  They are strictly vegetarian though, and they make a wonderful side dish for both carnivores and vegetarians.

5 cups fresh brussel sprouts
salty water to cover the brussel sprouts

I later used one of these silly pumpkins in a spicy subji.
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter easily found in Indian grocery aisles or stores)
15 grates of fresh black pepper
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup white mushrooms, finely diced
1 sweet red pepper, finely diced
¼ cup pine nuts
salt to taste

Pour the unwashed, untrimmed brussel sprouts into a large bowl, and cover them with warm, (not hot) salty water.  Set aside for about ten minutes.  At the sink, with a colander to one side, the bowl of water and sprouts in the middle, and a pot on the other side to hold the scraps, on a one by one basis, remove the tattered leaves, chop off the core and cut each sprout in half, or quarters, depending on the size.  This job is rather time consuming, and not exactly picturesque.  While you’re doing all this removing and chopping, you’ll also be rinsing the salt water off the sprouts.  Put the cleaned sprouts in the colander to let them dry.  What began as five cups of brussel sprouts will likely be four cups at the most by the time you’ve finished this process.  Unfortunately, there’s a fair bit of waste with brussel sprouts.  (I compost a lot!)

Check that the sprouts are dry, and if they’re not, roll them out onto a tea towel to absorb the last drops.  Meanwhile, put a large non-stick frying pan on medium high heat.  Add the ghee, and when it’s hot, grate in the pepper, then add the onion.  Fry till the onions are golden brown, then add the mushrooms, stirring to remove their moisture, and let cook till they are also golden brown.  Mushrooms soak up ghee, so you may need to add a little more ghee at this point.  Once the mushrooms have a slight crispy edge on them, add the red pepper, and cook that till soft.  If little bits of pepper can caramelise, all the better.  Add the brussel sprouts and cook for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and watching the colour change to bright green and testing for doneness by piercing with a fork.  When they’re almost soft enough, stir in the pine nuts.  Once the sprouts can be easily pierced with a fork, remove the pan from the heat, or the green will shift to grey and you’ll have overcooked them, a sad event indeed.  Taste for saltiness and add if necessary.

Because I was serving these as a side dish, and my main dish was really healthy and pure vegan, I rationalized that the ghee was only a little bit evil.  While my plate of mostly vegan non-stuffing, then these brussel sprouts, then a smattering of heavy cream and insanely buttered whipped sweet potato wasn’t exactly stoic, it was a delicious vegetarian dinner that matched the sumptuousness of the organic free range turkey, gravy, and real stuffing that everyone else enjoyed.

The colours of Thanksgiving go so nicely with everything! 
Of course these sprouts would have been even better with the addition of mustard seeds, cumin, fennel  and a little fenugreek, maybe a few slivers of ginger too, all at the hot ghee stage... But this meal was for those who like their Canadian Thanksgiving strictly traditional… Jaggery Cranberries up next.  Boy did I fool them!

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