It is a sad day when I finally have to buy Brussels sprouts in the store. We have finally run through all the of the ones we grew in the garden, along with nearly everything else left from last fall’s harvest. We used up the last of the onions a week or so ago, and the potatoes were all gone awhile before that.
This dish also used up our remaining shallots. If you grow a garden, you should definitely make room for some shallots because nothing makes you feel quite so much like a millionaire as having an almost unending supply of them. They are pricey enough in the store that I often think twice about buying them, but we paid $12 for a bundle of starts last spring and ended up with something like 12 pounds of delicious indulgence.
I mention that, because this dish makes rather profligate use of shallots, so if you would rather substitute some kind of small onion, I will understand. In that case, I would also add a bit of minced garlic at the same time as the browned butter, because shallots have a bit of a garlicky bite that onions do not.
We were surprised at how easy shallots are to grow – basically plant them and just keep them weeded. You do have to be careful not to plant in them in same place again very soon – or where you have grown garlic, onions or leeks – because they all can suffer from the same pests and diseases and if you grow organically, crop rotation is the best way to avoid problems. I’m going to try starting them from seed this year, because that is cheaper yet.
If you like the idea of growing them, but don’t have a lot of room, they will do quite well in a patio pot, so long as you keep them watered and give them some organic fertilizer a couple times through the summer.
Can you tell I am starting to get just the tiniest bit of spring fever? I want to grow something!
But back to this dish, which combines some of the best flavors of winter veggies. This cooking method is called a braise which means you use some moisture to steam the food, and some fat to give it a nice color and rich flavor. This is a super easy sort of braise, because you put everything in at the start and just switch from the stove-top to the oven part way through. I used my trusty ancient iron skillet, but any oven proof skillet or saute pan will work just fine.
- 3 ounces butter
- 1 pound of Brussels sprouts
- 6 ounces shallots or small onions, peeled
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup chicken broth, plus another ⅓ cup in reserve
- juice and zest of ½ lemon
- Preheat the oven to 400º.
- First brown the butter. I do this by placing the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and letting it melt. Then keep an eye on it and let it keep cooking. It will foam up and then you will begin to see it start to turn a light brown, first in the center of the pan. Give it a stir every few seconds, and watch it carefully. When the foam subsides it will probably be brown enough, but if it's still too light, let it go another 20 or 30 seconds. It should give off a nice nutty aroma when it is done. It is best to empty the pan into a heat proof dish as the residual heat in the pan can get it too brown.
- Put the butter in a large iron skillet or an ovenproof saute pan.
- Trim the stem end of each Brussels sprout and cut them in half, laying the cut side down in the pan.
- If the shallots are larger than the Brussels sprouts, cut them in half and lay the cut sides down in the pan as well. Try to have as many of both vegetables in a single layer as possible, but some will probably not fit.
- Turn the heat to medium. Just when you being to hear the butter sizzle, add the chicken broth and sprinkle the salt evenly over the vegetables.
- Cover the pan tightly and allow to cook for 5 minutes at a brisk boil.
- Remove the lid and place the pan in the preheated oven.
- Check after about 5 minutes and rearrange the vegetables in the pan so that any that weren't touching the bottom before now are.
- The chicken broth will cook off - if this is happening too quickly, as in the vegetables are getting too browned, but don't seem soft enough - add the other ⅓ cup of chicken broth.
- Cook until the broth has evaporated and the vegetables are well caramelized and tender.
- Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the lemon juice.
- Put the vegetables in a serving bowl and garnish with the lemon zest - serve immediately
These go very nicely with a pork loin or roasted chicken – you almost won’t care how cold and blustery it is outdoors when you sit down to this for dinner!
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