Every year, Craig’s dad, Steve, makes the most amazing prime rib for Christmas dinner (see here) and every year I help out the best I can, usually volunteering to make a side dish. Last year I made a gratin but this year, since mashed potatoes were already on the menu, I offered up a vegetable. At my request, Craig’s mom (Julee) bought me a bag of Brussels sprouts from the grocery store and when the dinner hour grew close, I opened their refrigerator and pulled out a bevy of ingredients to help in my enterprise.
I didn’t have a recipe, I was going to wing this. I started by taking three strips of smoky bacon and cutting them into “lardons” (or little slivers). I put them, cold, in a large skillet, added a splash of oil and turned up the heat to medium. As the bacon rendered out its fat, I cleaned the Brussels sprouts, cutting off the stems, pulling off some of the outer leaves and slicing them in half.
Meanwhile, I thinly sliced half of a red onion and minced up 2 or 3 cloves of garlic. I had a jar of mustard ready to go and also some champagne vinegar (though white wine or red wine vinegar would’ve worked too). And, of course, salt and pepper.
Here’s how this worked: when the bacon was crispy, I lifted it on to a plate. I turned up the heat in the skillet, added another splash of oil (olive oil, I think) to supplement the bacon fat, and when it was basically smoking hot–really really hot–I added all of the Brussels sprouts and a big pinch of salt.
There was a loud sizzle, heads turned, and I shook the pan with all my might. Then I let the Brussels sprouts start to color all over. Because the pan was so hot and there was a good amount of fat, that happened no problem. Then I added the red onion which slowed the cooking down a little, tossing that around too. When the onion was starting to brown, I added the garlic, stirring it around and watching it carefully. Just as it became fragrant, I drizzled in a very healthy drizzle of the vinegar which immediately sizzled and helped me work up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. I lowered the heat, threw in a big spoonful of Dijon mustard, stirred all around, added the reserved bacon back in and looked at my creation:
Not bad for an improvised Brussels sprouts side! The Brussels sprouts weren’t completely soft yet, though, so I kept them on low heat, partially covered, stirring them every so often until a knife went through one easily. Towards the end I readjusted with salt, pepper and vinegar and served ’em up with Steve’s prime rib. And they were a hit.
The moral of the story is: buy some Brussels sprouts and see what’s in your fridge. It’s very easy to make them delicious, just get your pan hot enough and use lots of salt and vinegar. The rest takes care of itself.