If Lee had to choose one vegetable for the rest of his life, it would be brussels sprouts. Winter is not my favorite time of year when it comes to fresh produce, but I have to admit, it is partially redeemed simply because it's brussels sprout season.
Like so many other vegetables, brussels sprouts benefit from roasting. They turn brown and the textural contrast of tender and chewy with a bit of crusty crunch is ever so satisfying. When it come to flavor, brussels sprouts are very mild when roasted and can go in many delicious directions. I like them with salty capers, olives and olive oil or with bacon and balsamic vinegar or with chili flakes and parmesan. Think of them like a slightly sweet canvas to paint with flavor. For Thanksgiving I worked on a variation of brussels sprouts with brown butter and hazelnuts. The combination was good, yet missing something. Acid. Just a bit of zesty lemon peel gives this dish the boost it needs.
When making something with brown butter it's important to use regular unsalted butter, not European style butter. It's the milk solids that brown giving food a toasty nutty flavor. You can cook in brown butter or just drizzle it over your finished dish. Either way it's a nice change of pace from my go-to favorite flavorful fat--olive oil.
There are lots of expensive specialty butters available in the store these days. For cooking I sometimes use organic butter, other times European style butter, but either way I prefer to use butter from cows not treated with the synthetic hormone rbST, such as Challenge Dairy butter. Challenge Dairy is currently sponsoring a sweepstake where you can win an all-included luxury vacation getaway to Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Montana’s Paradise Valley, just North of Yellowstone National Park. Enter before December 31, 2009.
Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter & HazelnutsServes 4
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup raw hazelnuts (not roasted), chopped
Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Rind of one lemon, finely grated
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place butter in a small saucepan and carefully heat over medium heat until the butter is melted, browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts and hazelnuts with the browned butter, salt and pepper. Place brussels sprouts mixture in a single layer on a non-stick sheet pan (or sheet pan lined with foil or a Silpat). Transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Toss and continue roasting until the sprouts are tender and browned but not mushy, about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and toss in a large bowl with lemon rind. Serve immediately.