Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon

Serving of Warm Brussels Sprout Salad
It's About the Bacon...and the Sprouts

Recipe by James

Bacon. I don’t understand the appeal. Of course, I’m in the minority, as bacon mania continues to sweep the globe. It’s not just for breakfast, lunch, and dinner anymore. There’s baconaisse and bacon jam, bacon lip balm, bacon scented candles and car fresheners, and even bacon toothpaste. And of course the ultimate lingerie item, the bacon bra. Mr. Baconpants tells us why: not only does everyone like it, even those who don’t eat it, it's also "a symbol of freedom in the fight to eat what we want” (rather than what’s healthy). Moreover it “makes everything better.” While I’m not sure I agree that bacon improves absolutely everything (dental floss, for example), I must admit that the addition of bacon to pan fried Brussels sprouts adds a distinctive yumminess. Particularly when paired with the balsamic reduction sauce.

Sauteed Sprouts, Toasted Pine Nuts, Crispy Bacon, and Balsamic Reduction
Next: Add the Parts Together
My friend James prepared this recipe for a potluck last weekend. He was inspired by his memory of a warm Brussels sprout salad that he and his wife Kelly enjoyed at a local northern Italian restaurant. During some years when a particular chef was there, the restaurant was well known for its side dishes and desserts. Both could add substantially to the bill, but no one cared because they were so delicious. James recreated a dish from that era by sautéing Brussels sprouts with bacon, onion, and pine nuts, then dressing them with a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Bacon Frying in Pan
It All Starts with You Know What
According to about.com, making perfectly cooked bacon is easy if you follow a few guidelines. Start off by putting the bacon into a cool pan. Turn the heat to medium to medium-high (depending upon your stove); keep it cool enough to avoid major splatters. It’s key to watch it carefully and turn it frequently, as there is a fine line between browned and burnt. Don’t rush the process by cranking up the heat.

Fresh Brussels Sprouts, Shallot, and Pine Nuts in Basket
All This and Bacon Too
James’ original recipe called for sautéing the sprouts in the fat from 6 strips of bacon. I used 4 strips and cut the bacon fat to about 1½  tablespoons, then added 1 tablespoon of olive oil (as I implied, a little bacon goes a long way for me). You could use the full 6 strips, and however much of the fat you like--it will be about 1/3 cup total for 6 strips. I also substituted shallots for onion because I had them on hand from our CSA farm share. You could use a small onion instead.

Do use nitrate/nitrite-free bacon. These preservatives have potential to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic, when heated. Post a comment if you have other favorite bacon recipes. I might have to change my mind about this bacon thing.

PS. Bacon-loving readers might also enjoy Escarole & White Bean Soup.

Plate of Warm Brussels Sprout Salad
Feast for Eyes and Tastebuds
Warm Brussels Sprout Salad 
serves about 6

1½ lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts
1 - 2 medium shallots
4 - 6 strips of thick-cut, nitrate-free bacon
1 tbsp. olive oil (optional)
1.5 oz. pine nuts, ¼ cup
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
~3/8 tsp. salt
Fresh-cracked black pepper

Wash the Brussel sprouts thoroughly, trim their stems, and discard outer leaves as needed. Cut each Brussels sprout in half and set aside.

Slice shallots thinly then chop coarsely. You will have about 1/3 cup.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp but not burnt. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-covered plate to drain. Blot the top of the bacon to remove additional fat.

Drain off as much of the bacon fat from the skillet as you like. I kept 1½ tbsp. of fat, then added 1 tbsp. olive oil. Remember that you can add more bacon fat as you sauté, but you removing it is much more challenging.

Put the balsamic vinegar in a small pan over medium-high heat until the vinegar just begins to release some vapor. Immediately reduce the heat to simmer, stirring the vinegar occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Do not let the vinegar boil.

Meanwhile, add the onion to the bacon fat in the skillet, and sauté until the onions are slightly translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Add the Brussels sprouts to the skillet. Sauté the sprouts over medium heat for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring up from the bottom frequently to coat. Turn off the heat, but leave the sprouts in the pan.

Briefly toast the pine nuts in a small skillet. Stir them into the sprouts.

Spoon the sprouts into a serving bowl. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar reduction, Sprinkle in about a ¼ - 3/8 tsp of salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste. Toss lightly and serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. This was quite yummy. I'd like to try making one of my favorites, bacon wrapped dates.