Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Vegetable Eater Wishes: Brussel Sprouts and Medjool Dates the Perfect Paring

Now as everyone knows the true stars of any meal are the side dishes. I mean Sides are the best and most memorable part of any meal if you really think about it. I have a friend that I would go to dinner with on a regular basis, and his interest was always in the side dishes that came with any meal. I mean lets face it, as kids how many family dinners were based around chicken or beef and how many were enhanced by the presence of delicious side dishes that made the meal more than winner winner chicken dinner.

I think this is seen no more strongly than with the holy grail meal of the year Thanksgiving. It is as I have shared before, my favorite meal. And lets face it Thanksgiving is never really about the Turkey, it's about the sides. Stuffings with everything from onions to oysters, Potatoes mashed or Gratinated, Vegetables of all sorts all prepared and dressed up with sauces, smoked meats, cheeses or cream. Fruits in salads or baked in pies and cakes. All in all a cast of thousands of side dishes waiting to be picked for the ultimate yearly feast.

Now in my world I also have the issue that there are some people who unlike myself don't eat meat. So as such I am careful at times to prepare foods I know with will OK with said folks. Thanksgiving is one meal that can be tough for vegetarians because so many dishes are prepared with a nod to the pig with bacon and Ham being a flavoring ingredient. But not to worry I have a preparation for brussel sprouts that will make every palate happy.

Now Brussel Sprouts are one of those vegetables that have become so popular that one wonders about the origin of their bad reputation. It is probably rooted in the American cooking methods of the past where boiling vegetables to their death was a common thing. With a cabbage like flavor and bitter edge a mushy wet sprout was hardly a tasty treat. So welcome to today where roasting or pan sauteing them brings out a delicious browned savory dish that people can literally sink their teeth into. Oh and lets not forget things like bacon cream and cheese that really pump up the volume on flavor.

My recipe follows these modern day methods and is in a work delicious. It has it's roots in Californian cooking actually where I first became aware of the idea of mixing fruits especially dried ones into savory dishes. And it comes about because of my introduction to the Medjool date. Medjool dates are the most prized among the dates in the world. They are so special that they are actually serve onboard several Arabic airlines they way the French would serve high end bonbons like a little treat during the flight. Fortunately they are available most of the year and are definitely available in the fall.

I first prepared this dish as a nod to a restaurant dish I had using caesar salad dressing on a salad of shaved sprouts and dried cranberries with croutons and onion. But it's inception really came after seeing dates served warm in a spinach salad with bacon dressing. Brussel Sprouts seemed the natural pairing for warm dates and the caesar idea drove home the rest.

So to make this dish you trim the bottoms off the brussel sprouts and slice them in halves. You also slice the dates in two to three pieces depending on the size. You then put a compound butter in a hot pan made with garlic, salt, pepper, anchovies, lemon juice and zest and parsley in a pan with a dash of olive oil and get it good and hot. Then you add the brussel sprouts and saute till just a little softened then add the dates and cook till the dates are warmed through and the sugars begin to caramelize slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and you are done.

People love these. And they could not be easier, just be careful not to over cook them. Please try them and let me know what you think. If you don't like anchovies don't worry you don't taste them they are just a background flavor. Enjoy Ya'll and Happy Thanksgiving!

Forrest's Brussel Sprouts with Medjool dates and compound garlic butter

1 lb brussel sprouts ends trimmed and cut in half
1 1/2 cup medjool dates sliced into  two to three pieces short ways not longwise depending on their size
4 tablespoons compound garlic butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Compound garlic butter
(this makes extra you can use for all sorts of uses)

1 stick softened butter unsalted
2 heaping tablespoon garlic minced puree from the jar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
   Zest of one small lemon
3 anchovies
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 medium shallot finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

In a bowl add all ingredients and cream together then chill at least 3 hours

For the sprouts 

In a pan ( a wok works well for this)  take 4 teaspoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat
When hot add brussel sprouts stirring to coat the sprouts then let sit for a few minutes stirring to get sprouts very slightly cooked about 3 to 4 mins then add the dates and the salt and pepper and carefully stir. ( you don't want the dates to completely break up)
Cook till the brussel sprouts are just cooked and the dates are beginning to caramelize about another 2 to 4 mins then turn off the heat and serve add salt if needed
Enjoy Ya'll!

1 comment:

  1. Growing up with English style cooking, boil it until it is dead, I really appreciated your insight into why the brussel sprout has been maligned. Thx U.