Wednesday, November 4, 2009

the mark bittman minimalist club: if you don't give a fig about brussels sprouts, eat them with bacon

Instead of complaining about fall today, I'm going to share with you a recipe for the quintessential fall vegetable. No, I'm not talking about squash. Like white should not be worn after Labor Day, squash should not be eaten before Thanksgiving. And I'm not talking about rutabaga, either. Rutabaga is what Vermonters of yore resorted to eating during February blizzards when the snow was falling so hard they couldn't even see their way to the barn to feed the horses, let alone yoke them up or whatever and ride them into town for supplies. After they'd sucked dry the crusty bottles of condiments from the door of the refrigerator, eaten the cat and dog food, as well as the cat and dog, they'd head down to the root cellar and bring up the rutabaga.

What I'm talking about here are Brussels sprouts.

Maybe you've heard of them? They're a member of the cabbage family. My greek stepmother says they're better after a frost. They're delicious roasted and sprinkled with salt, but cook them with bacon, and your meat-eating, vegetable-hating husband will say, "It's better than your average brussels sprout, that's for sure." And better than your average rutabaga, too.

If You Don't Give a Fig About Brussels Sprouts, Eat Them With Bacon
from the New York Times

2 tablespoons olive oil [why a recipe that calls for 4 to 8 ounces of bacon requires olive oil is beyond me; I used 1 tablespoon, which was plenty; you could probably make this with even less than that]
4 to 8 ounces bacon, chopped [I chopped mine, but in the photos on the Times website the bacon is in pretty big pieces, so maybe slice it short ways into chunks]
1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed
1 cup dried figs, stemmed and quartered

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste.

1. Put a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, then bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon starts to crisp, 5 to 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put sprouts through the feed tube of a food processor equipped with a slicing attachment and shred. (You can also do this with a mandoline [if you don't like having fingertips], or a knife.)

3. Add sprouts, figs, and ¼ cup water to pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper, turn heat to medium, and cook, undisturbed [er, I stirred it], until sprouts and figs are nearly tender, about 5 to 10 minutes [for me, the recipe ended here: after about 6 minutes, my sprouts and figs were tender and the water evaporated; overcooked Brussels sprouts are gross, so I just stopped cooking at this point]. Turn heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until any remaining water evaporates, another 5 to 10 minutes. Add vinegar, taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings. [I have a new theory about Mark Bittman's serving sizes, which involves his sumo wrestler intern who types up the recipes; this would serve four as a main dish, but who eats Brussels sprouts as a main dish? People in olden times, during blizzards, right before they ate the cat.]

This dish reminded me of a slaw. A warm, salty-sweet, autumn slaw. The figs are lovely, sweet and a little gritty, and you can't go wrong with bacon. Next time I would chop the bacon into bigger pieces, quarter the Brussels sprouts instead of shredding them, and maybe top the finished dish with toasted walnuts. In the photo that accompanied the recipe on the Times site, the food looks gorgeous. Mine was not, but it tasted good.


  1. I am sort of shocked because this looks SO delicious! As you know, I am not usually a fan of BS (funny how that looks like bullshit but really mean brussel sprouts, no?), but I think I will actually try this sans the bacon!

  2. mojie-sans the bacon? does this new bacon sansing mean you've banished my maple walnut bacon cupcake, too?

  3. Brussel sprouts may be my favorite vegetable ever. Perhaps I'll try this with some fake bacon - and I think the walnuts (or pecans?) would make a perfect crunchy/earthy/dirt addition.

    Your Loyal Guinea Pig/Fellow Scientist

  4. Well, I hate to say it but I am off the meat. I watched that video from the local slaughterhouse that was just shut down. I just feel like if that is happening at an organic slaughterhouse in Vermont then nothing is sacred!

    The video is so horrific, I was bawling within the first 20 seconds. The video goes on for over three minutes but I had to shut it off at about the one minute mark when the were skinning a live baby cow.

  5. i can't bring myself to watch it since i already struggle with the fact that i do sometimes eat meat...maybe i could make the maple walnut bacon cupcake with that fake bacon that william talks about above?

  6. Don't be misled - fake bacon ain't got nothin on real bacon. In fact - nothin's got nothin on real bacon. I don't eat it but I'll probably want to for the rest of my life!I'll try that recipe with the fake stuff anyway - I just love the sprouts that much.

    In other news - just sitting here enjoying what might be my LAST last Tommy's egg sandwich and wanted to share some outstanding news for all the Tommy's lovers out there - seems he's got a few more days over at the Shelburne Road place and then he's going over to work full-time at The Spot just up the street. And all I have to say to that is halle-f'n-llujah! That place needs some serious fixin and Mr. Tommy Winrock is just the man to do it! I'm hopeful that they'll import his egg sandwiches and his fish tacos tout de suite.

  7. Mmmm... brussel sprouts are my fav as well. I steamed some fresh ones last night, added butter salt, and pepper and that was enough for me.

    However, MeatMan felt it was necessary to add generic brand Bacon Bits (which I'm not proud to admit, I purchased at Big Lots) to the BS, the mashed potatoes, and the chicken. So I think he would be a big fan of the above recipe - I'll get cooking!

  8. Bittman's recipe for Braised & Glazed Brussels Sprouts is mighty fine, too. It's in How To Cook Everything. Just be sure the BS are less than three days old, or there will be a lot of middle-school ribaldry around the table.

  9. I made this for my fine neighbors last night and heartily endorse Kate's modifications. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will skip the oil and use the thickest slicing blade on my food processor, or perhaps even quarter them. I HATE mushy BS.

  10. Pecans -- that's a brilliant idea, William. And those brilliant ideas are the reason I pay you the big bucks. Huge deer, that is. And I'm very excited to hear that Tommy is migrating to The Spot; let's breakfast there soon.

    Mark, if the yachtsman is dining, there is middle-school ribaldry around my table regardless of what is served.