The idea was to come up with a side dish for Thanksgiving. But after much soul searching and a brainstorming session based on What do you do with Brussels sprouts? we decided that the world wasn’t crying out for another version of brussels sprouts with bacon.
Instead we’re offering Seared Brussels Sprouts with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce. People who do not love Brussels sprouts (me) love these. Here’s the deal: you can dress the brussels sprouts with the dipping sauce and serve them as a fancy side dish, as in the photo above; or you can pitch Thanksgiving to the wind, admit that these are too good to eclipse in a wasteland of dry turkey and partisan bickering about the last election, and just make them for a few good friends as a treat. Four people will rip through a pound of these no problem. Plus, you’re going to end up with a sauce that will instantly become a permanent member of your culinary repertoire.
Just about everyone who takes photographs of food, or is a devotee of authenticity in rare, off the edge of the map culinary treats (flatbreads by nomadic pastoralists, anyone?) eventually stumbles across the work of the former husband and wife team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. My own response to their work alternates between awe and despair. I will almost certainly never visit the villages on Mekong tributaries to write about their food, let alone take photographs like theirs. Beginning with their first book, FLATBREADS AND FLAVORS: A baker’s atlas, they set a standard for adventure-food writing and photography that, in my opinion, stands unequalled. As a parent, I’m also impressed that they did it–at least with their first books–while travelling to remote parts of the globe with two young children. I cannot offer enough praise for the writing and photography of these books. While the recipes may sometimes be intimidating (Where’s the nearest source for Thai eggplant?), the photographs always stop me in my tracks, as I ask myself How did she get that shot? And in such low light?
The dipping sauce in today’s post is inspired by a similar one in their book HOT SOUR SALTY SWEET: A culinary journey through Southeast Asia. They refer to it as their “everything sauce,” as in, you put it on everything. They’re right. Don’t whine about the list of ingredients–just make it. Enjoy. Ken
Photography Note: Few foods seems to alter their color when shifted from natural to artificial light as much as Brussels sprouts. All of the kitchen shots were done under artificial light. The green of the latter (cooked, shot under artificial light) seems “minty-er” to me. I’m sure my Lightroom or Photoshop skills will eventually improve enough to reconcile the gulf between the shade of the raw ingredients shot with natural lighting and the shade of the finished dish. In the meantime, you’ll just have to marvel–those cooked brussels sprouts sure do look green!
Seared Brussels Sprouts with
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
- ¼ cup coconut water
- 2 tablespoons Garum or Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- Juice of 2 limes
- ¼ cup carrot peeled and grated on a fine grater
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons palm or turbinado sugar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced and seeds removed
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts.
- 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Put all of the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer 1 minute and then remove from the heat. Allow to cool. Transfer to a jar with a tight lid. Set aside while you cook the sprouts.
- Trim the bottoms of the sprouts and peel off any tough outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise through the root.
- Heat the peanut or vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sprouts, cut side down, cover, and cook 4 or minutes until browned. If the sprouts seem to be darkening too quickly, reduce the heat. Flip and cook on the second side until browned and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl. Give the vinaigrette a shake and dress the sprouts – you probably won’t need all of the vinaigrette. Add the cilantro and sesame seeds and toss well. Serve, with extra sauce on the side if you like.
Like most people, I learned to love Brussels sprouts through bacon. As a young line cook at Seasons under Lydia Shire I was responsible for making a luxurious medley of roasted sprouts, bacon, shallots, parmesan cheese and heavy cream. I made pans and pans of them and must have put on 10 pounds that season. It’s still a favorite recipe for young cooks – their bodies can take it – but these days, much as I love them this way, I only eat a few.
The chefs were tossing around ideas for Brussels sprouts at a menu meeting at Trade a few weeks ago. Last year they served them with Romesco sauce. It was a huge hit. They wanted something different. I believe it was Juan who hit on the idea of using this Southeast Asian-style sauce. Andrew added some okra to the dish. I’m not sure if you would find roasted Brussels sprouts and okra in Vietnam with this sauce, but it absolutely works. The sweet, sour, spice of it is a great counter to the earthy funky flavor of Brussels sprouts and the brininess of okra. It’s fabulous. Indeed it’s a sauce you can eat on anything… even those dreaded sprouts.
I lifted their idea and created this recipe (with a little help from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid) to which, of course, I had to add Garum. I’ve added the toasted sesame seeds and cilantro to this recipe as well.
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