With recipe-testing assistance by Sarah Strauss
Like many people, chef Sevie Cartularo did not fall in love with Brussels sprouts at first bite.
“My grandmother would make them for Thanksgiving,” recalls Cartularo, of Buono Appetito, in Shelburne. “They were boiled and just the smell of them made me hate them.”
Chef Dennis Vieira of the Red Clover Inn in Mendon did not grow up with Brussels sprouts, which is perhaps why he more easily appreciated the bite-size green globes when he first cooked them in a Boston restaurant. He admits that the duck fat in which they were caramelized probably helped.
Both chefs agree that the common home cooking technique of boiling them down to mush does not do sprouts any favors.
In early fall, Vieira likes to buy the first tiny marble-sized sprouts on the stalk from local farms such as Radical Roots, Boardman Hill Farm or Alchemy Gardens, and sauté them whole with toasted garlic for a nutty flavor. He leaves them a little crisp and yes, he’s likely to use a little pork or duck fat to help them out.
In winter, when local greens are at a premium, Vieira might feature the larger more mature sprouts raw in the salad he shares below, their slight bitter edge balanced perfectly with sweet nuggets of butternut squash, reduced cider and rich bacon and mushrooms.
Despite his early scarring experiences with Brussels sprouts, Cartularo’s eyes (and palate) were opened to their potential while cooking in a San Francisco restaurant where they were deep-fried. He tweaked the recipe and introduced it as a winter appetizer special when he came home to run the kitchen at his family’s third-generation Italian restaurant.
Cartularo started evangelizing on the sprouts’ behalf while working the bar on Sunday nights. “I can probably count 15 regular customers I’ve changed from Brussels sprouts haters to Brussels sprouts lovers with this dish,” Cartularo says. “I’m kind of scared to ever take them off the menu.”
Among the fans of his fried sprouts with crispy capers, garlic and parsley is Cartularo’s mother, who eats them tossed with spaghetti.
Despite the success of this particular recipe, Cartularo has yet to fully embrace the Brussels sprout. “It’s probably the only way I’ll ever cook them,” he admits.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers and Garlic
Adapted from executive chef Sevie Cartularo, Buono Appetito, Shelburne
At the restaurant, Sevie Cartularo uses the deep fryer to separately fry each ingredient, but it comes out very well with a high-heat roast, too. Do as Cartularo’s mother does and toss them with spaghetti for a satisfying main dish.
1 pound (about 24 large) Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup olive oil
5 fat cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 ½ tablespoons capers, rinsed well and patted very dry
½ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fine salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim the base of each Brussels sprout and slice each in half through the root and then into quarters. Place them in a serving bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, tossing once.
While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, heat the cup of olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium-high heat. (It should be about ¼-inch deep.) Prepare a plate lined with paper towels. When the oil is shimmering, carefully add the (very dry) capers to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until bloomed (yes, like a flower) and crispy. Remove the capers with a slotted spoon to the prepared lined plate.
Drizzle the sliced garlic with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toss it into the pan of roasting Brussels sprouts. Roast for 4 minutes and then toss in the parsley leaves. Roast another 4 to 5 minutes or until the outer leaves of Brussels sprouts are very dark and crisp, the parsley leaves are crisp and the garlic is softened and golden (it will be dark in some spots). Transfer the Brussels sprouts mixture to a serving bowl and add the lemon juice and fried capers. Taste and add a sprinkle of salt if desired. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Squash, Mushrooms, Bacon and Cider Dressing
Adapted from chef Dennis Vieira, Red Clover Inn, Mendon
This beautiful salad is rich with contrasting colors, textures and flavors. Presented on a platter, it will impress and wake up the winter palate.
1 cup apple cider
1 pound (about 24 large) Brussels sprouts
¼ pound bacon, sliced into matchsticks
6 ounces butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced small (¼-inch cubes to yield about 1½ cups)
2 cups (4 ounces) finely sliced oyster or (stemmed) shiitake mushrooms, or a mixture
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons snipped chives
In a small pot, set over medium heat, bring apple cider to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until it is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Trim Brussels sprouts and remove any tough outer leaves. Slice each in half and, with cut side down, finely slice each sprout. (Alternately, after trimming, run whole Brussels sprouts through the slicing blade of a food processor.) You will have a mix of slices and fine shreds. Place shredded Brussels sprouts in a serving bowl that can handle hot ingredients.
Set a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the sliced bacon. Cook, about 5–6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon just starts to turn color. Add the diced butternut squash and toss with the bacon and fat. Continue to sauté, 4–5 minutes, until the squash starts to color. Add the sliced mushrooms, toss, and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp, the squash is cooked and the mushrooms are golden, another 6–7 minutes. Stir in the thyme leaves and sherry vinegar and cook, stirring, another 30 seconds.
Pour the hot mixture over the Brussels sprouts in the serving bowl. Add the reduced cider and about 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss everything together. (Depending on the amount of fat from the bacon, you may want to add a little more olive oil.) Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Right before serving sprinkle on the chives. Serves 4 to 6.