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Entries in Brussels Sprouts (2)

Friday
Feb182011

Deep Fried Revelation: Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts next to Veal Tenderloin over Parsnip Puree

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated a friend's birthday at a restaurant called the New French. The place is cute and the food is pretty good, though not anything particularly special. But we did have one side dish which blew my mind: Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts.

They arrived in an oval ramekin, browned on the edges, liberally dusted with parmesan cheese and slivers of fried garlic. The flavor was unlike any Brussels I had ever had--in fact, if you closed your eyes you may even mistake them for a fried artichoke (one of the great things in life). On the outside, the leaves had separated and curled a bit and were very crispy. They dissolved in your mouth as soon as you bit down, as if they were the world's most delicate potato chip. And the inside was sweet and tender, so that you had a wonderful contrast of textures within the single bite.  They were totally addictive and totally delicious.

I was pretty excited about this. I've cooked Brussels Sprouts a thousand times but I've never thought of deep frying them. So a couple of weeks later we had some friends over for dinner and I tried to reproduce the dish. I failed.

I quartered the Sprouts and heated up some canola oil. Then, for some silly reason, I threw them all in the pan at once. Two things happened. First, I quickly learned that when you attempt to deep fry Brussels Sprouts, they cause the oil to aggressively sizzle and pop. So I got a nice splash of boiling hot canola oil on my face. Second, this is a dish that must be done in very small batches, as piling them all in there drops the oil temperature and destroys all hope of crispiness. I know this is a general rule of deep frying, but I usually get away with some degree of crowding. Apparently not in this case.

So what I ended up with was a soggy pile of oil-soaked Brussels, which, although very tasty, bore no resemblance whatsoever to those magnificent crispy nuggets I'd marveled at at the New French.

Last night I catered a 10 person dinner party and I decided to try the Brussels again. It was risky, but I just had to. This time, I had a splatter guard at the ready (basically a big, flat mesh lid with a handle that you place over the pan). I grabbed a generous handful of the quartered Sprouts and tossed them in. Just as before, the oil basically exploded. After about a minute and a half I peaked under the guard. The Sprouts had browned, crisped and curled beautifully. I took one out and tasted it; much to my surprise, the inside was cooked through and it was done. It was that fast. I pulled them all out, salted them, sprinkled them with freshly grated parmesan and repeated the process.

They were delicious. A huge hit. This is possibly my favorite preparation of this vegetable. I may never go back to roasting again...

Click here for the recipe.

 

 

Thursday
Dec102009

BUTTER AND BACON, AD HOC STYLE

What: Dinner Party celebrating the release of Thomas Keller's new cookbook: Ad Hoc
Where: My apartment

Beautiful Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Came out perfectly.This Search takes me to my apartment, where I hosted a small dinner party in honor of Thomas Keller's new cookbook, Ad Hoc (click here to buy it on Amazon). Ad Hoc is actually one of Thomas' (you don't mind if I call you Thomas, do you?) restaurants in Napa Valley, a more casual, family style place than his other fine dining establishments (see below for more info on Keller). I wanted an excuse to try out a bunch of these new recipes. And what better way to do that than by having a nice dinner party with some friends? I served an exclusively Ad Hoc based menu. Here is what I decided on:

STARTER: Cranberry Bean, Escarole and Smoked Ham Hock Soup (Ad Hoc, p. 115)
MAIN COURSE: Homemade Meatballs with Homemade Pappardelle (Ad Hoc, p. 50), Butter Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi and Brussels Sprouts (Ad Hoc, p. 196) and Butter Poached Marble Potatoes (Ad Hoc, p. 223)
DESSERT: Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Ad Hoc, p. 310)

Tiny Marble Potatoes Braising in Emulsified Butter. Yup, that's a whole lotta butter in that pot.Before I tell you about the dinner, which was fabulous, a word or two on the Great Thomas Keller:

Thomas Keller, owner of the famous French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley (as well as Per Se in NYC and Bouchon in Vegas) is my favorite chef. His food is interesting, intricate and sophisticated and he sources the finest quality, often local, ingredients. The French Laundry has always been a mythical place to me, a restaurant that I dream of going to sometime in my life. And the French Laundry Cookbook (click here to buy on Amazon) is by far my favorite cookbook. The recipes, while a little complicated and crazy and labor intensive, are unbelievably informative and come out perfectly. Go buy it and try a couple of the dishes out. You will be amazed.  
Crisp and fresh Escarole for the Cranberry Bean, Escarole and Smoked Ham Hock soupAs a gift for graduating from culinary school at the French Culinary Institute, I was taken to Per Se in the Time Warner Center on the Upper West Side. The meal was mind blowing. We even got to tour the kitchen which looked more like an operating room than a busy restaurant kitchen. It was pristine and silent. Very very intense. There is actually a television screen with a live feed linking to the French Laundry kitchen in Napa so that Thomas can keep an eye on whichever kitchen he is not present in! Crazy. Genius crazy chef. And that's why he's the best.
Meatball ingredients ready to be mixed--freshly ground beef (chuck and sirloin), prok butt, veal shoulder, sauteed onions and garlic, bread crumbs, parsley and eggGetting a new Thomas Keller Cookbook is an event. I'd compare it to what it must have been like to get a new Beatles album in the 60s. The first time I hold it in my hands my mind races thinking about all the amazing wonders it must contain and I can't wait to get into the kitchen, open it up and start cooking. I found out that for the release of Ad Hoc, Thomas was doing a book signing at Williams Sonoma in the Time Warner Center. Of course I went. I bought the book and waited on line for an hour to meet the man himself. When it was finally my turn, I was giddy with excitement. As he was signing my book I told him that I owned a catering company and that I prepare an adaptation of the French Laundry's Chestnut Agnolotti dish that all my clients go crazy for. He looked at me, and in a deadly serious tone said, "well then, you must make it very well." I swooned and nearly fell over. And then he took a photo with me! Now I have photos with two of the greatest chefs in the world: Ferran Adria (see my Barcelona post) and Thomas. Check out my photo op with TK, as well as his impressive, calilgraphy-esque signature:
Thomas' crazy signature: "Elisabeth, It's All About Family."

Me and the man.Before I talk about the details of the dinner, I wanted to share some quick initial impressions of this hefty book.  

The Ad Hoc cookbook is wonderful. It is full of AMAZING recipes. Now, if you're looking for a cookbook with recipes for healthy eating, this is definitely not the book for you. Pretty much every dish has bacon and/or butter. In copious amounts. Also, it is important to note that the recipes are not as simple as one might think based on Thomas' description of the book as a "big collection of...everyday staples, delicious approachable food, recipes that are doable at home (Ad Hoc, p. 1)." The recipes are actually a bit complicated, with multiple steps and ingredients. This is not a book of recipes you can whip up Rachel Ray style. But if you've got the time, you can make some incredible and memorable home style meals.

Me rolling out a sheet of pasta to be cut for handmade pappardelle. My hand looks funny!

Cut pappardelle, ready to be boiled and tossed with butter and chopped chivesWe started off with the thick, vegetable packed hearty Cranberry Beans, Escarole and Smoked Ham Hock soup. The dish was earthy and comforting, both complex in it's depth of flavor, but also simple and straight forward. Preparation was relatively simple for the intense flavor this soup delivered.

Finished Cranberry Bean, Escarole, Smoked Ham Hock soup ready for servingThe homemade beef, pork and veal meatballs were stuffed with mozzarella and accompanied by homemade Oven roasted tomato sauce and buttered homemade Pappardelle. (Homemade pasta post coming soon, by the way). For experimental purposes, to see if it made a difference, we actually made two batches of the meatballs--one with pre ground meat, and one with meat ground fresh in my new KitchenAid meat grinder attachment. It was thrilling grinding my own meat (I am a girl of simple pleasures), and we all agreed the home ground were superior to the store bought. It's not a necessary step but it's a nice touch.

Pushing meat through the grinder. My idea of a good time.

Forming the meatballs with a chunk of mozzarella insideFormed meatballs. Pretty, aren't they?Freshly, home ground vs. pre ground meatballs side by side--pretty striking difference in color (the redder ones are the freshly ground)The meatballs were delicious, but they didn't come out as well as I had hoped. Based on the recipe's cooking time of 15-18 minutes in a 425 degree oven, the meatballs didn't cook through as much as they should have, and the cheese didn't really have time to melt or soften sufficiently. My oven tends to be a little under temperature, but even with an extra 5 minutes or so, the meatballs were still not piping hot and completely cooked. Perhaps I made the meatballs too large, though I got exactly the number of meatballs I was instructed to get (12) and followed the recipe dutifully. Try the recipe out yourself, let me know if you have the same problem!
Butter braised radishes, kohlrabi and brussels sprouts. Pretty and yummyThe Butter Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi (a great crunchy vegetable in the cabbage family) and Brussels Sprouts was a gorgeous and delightful side dish. I wasn't planning to make another starch, but when I came across the recipe for Butter Poached Marble Potatoes, and then I just so happened to find marble potatoes at one of my favorite stands in the Greenmarket--Keith's Farm, I had to make them. Also, I was very intrigued by the idea of slowly cooking potatoes in butter, something I had never done. Turns out it's a great way to cook potatoes. They end up coming out creamy and sweet and lovely. If you're sitting here wondering what the hell marble potatoes are, don't feel bad. I had no idea either. They're actually just potatoes that are literally the size of marbles. Go figure.

Finished Butter Poached Marble Potatoes. Tasty ass potatoes.For dessert, the Pineapple Upside Down Cake was pretty easy to prepare and very delicious with those gooey sweet caramelized pineapple slices on top. The cake itself was light, moist and airy. It's a fun cake to make, since there's a bit of magic (and finger crossing) involved, as you flip the cake over to (hopefully) find the pineapple slices have gone from the bottom of the cake to the top.
Me at the head of my dinner table, about to serve the Ad Hoc feast. I'm exhausted. Don't tell anyone, but this meal took me 2 days to prepare.Platter of finished meatballs.Ad Hoc is a cookbook definitely worth purchasing and experimenting with. Lots of gems in here. I wouldn't make a habit out of cooking from it, because you are apt to gain 30 lbs., but for a special occasion, Ad Hoc will not disappoint. There are some minor problems with the cooking times and ways that some of the recipes are written. I have to admit, this is rare for the usually infallable Thomas Keller cookbooks. But it's great just the same. I encourage you to go on your own Search and make an Ad Hoc dinner party for a group of friends. Just remember to stock up on some butter and bacon!