Monday, April 12, 2010

The Asparagus Shelf

It must have been a real challenge to have been my grandmother. My father's mother, Mary Ruth, was an incredible woman. I mean, you'd have to be, if you had fourteen children and raised them all to be outstanding individuals, like she did. Yes, you heard me right, I said FOURTEEN. And no, they were not at all like the Duggar family. My grandparents were good, catholic people who happened to have a lot of children. And I am really glad they did, or I wouldn't be here today.

So, as you can imagine in a house of fourteen children, there are a lot of stories to tell. I've heard about all kinds of sibling issues and every day drama that occurred regularly in my father's home. One of the stories that will always stick out in my mind is the story of the Asparagus Shelf. One thing (as my father tells me) that you learn in a family that size is to take what you want from the serving plate on the first time around the table, or you may not get it. Likewise, you have to figure out what to do about food you would rather NOT have on your plate.

The family dinner table had a secret hiding place. I imagine it as some kind of support for the table legs. My dad calls it the "asparagus shelf", because that is where all those nasty kinds of things ended up when Grandma and Grandpa weren't looking.

I, personally, adore asparagus, but I imagine that possibly they didn't practice the "steaming" method back then, so I suppose I can understand my dad's dismay when the wilted greens made an appearance at the dinner table. However, I can understand the sentiment. See, I have always felt that way about brussels sprouts. I have tried and tried, but I have never once been able to convince my taste buds that they are a special culinary treat.

Apparently, I have just never had them prepared the right way. Ginny came out this past weekend while she was at a conference in St Louis, and brought with her a baggie of pretty little brussels sprouts she brought from her parents' house. She assures me that size does matter when it comes to brussels sprouts; and smaller is better.

We made this recipe that we found over at Evil Chef Mom, and to say the least, it was a revelation. Really, people, I would not lie about something so serious. Working diligently, Ginny trimmed and cored the little gems and then passed them to me to tease the little leaves apart. (The recipe says to slice them, but we went in a different direction.) After finishing the dish, and taking lovely pictures of it for all of you to see, we both grabbed a fork, and with a prayer of "I really hope this is good", we dug in. Standing right there, over the stove. We stood. And devoured. If I could have fit one more shovel full down my gullet, I would have licked the bowl. This is all that was left after what shall henceforth be known as "The Brussels Sprout Massacre".
(you should know that this is NOT a small bowl. This is a 12" platter. And it is EMPTY.)
I have been converted. As evidence to that point, we went to the greenhouse the next day and there are now four brussels sprouts plants residing in my garden. For once I can say that its alright that my husband would never eat this, because the next time I make it, I won't have to share it with anyone. And, oh yes, I will be making it again.

Brussels Sprout Hash With Caramelized Shallots and Bacon
(Adapted from Bon Appetit November 2007)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced (I only had 2 shallots, so we used those and a few pieces of green garlic)
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces (we used pancetta)
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water

In a frying pan, cook bacon until crispy. Lay bacon on paper towels to drain fat.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Saute until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.
Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch) slices.Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Saute until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots and bacon, season with salt and pepper.
Make it. Love it. Devour it. Then make it again. You know you want to....


Kim said...

I LOVE brussel sprouts too! Shhhh, don't tell anyone else (then we can have them all to ourselves)


Anne said...

omg, this sounds so good.