Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Brussels Sprouts and Duck Fat

December 12th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Brussels sproutsVegetarians: Skip this post. A discussion I read about cooking in duck fat – see below – led me to remember the small jar of bacon drippings my mother always kept around — a fixture in Southern kitchens, of course. That led me to a recipe I recited last night at dinner to a seatmate for my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. I forgot the bacon in the recipe, so Sandy, if you read this, add bacon (keep reading for the recipe).

Cabbages and kings – and duck fat

We had been talking about cabbages, and that took us to even-better Brussels sprouts. All at the table at Cafe Boulud were in agreement about loving the baby cabbages. We figured that people who don’t like them probably were turned off by badly prepared ones — overcooked, mushy and stinky.

But I’m of a mind they’re what Lewis Carroll was talking about when he paired cabbages and kings in the same line of poetry. These baby green beauties belong on a king’s plate!

My recipe is simple: Cut the sprouts in half (those reading me in a European kitchen won’t have to — your sprouts are much smaller) and peel off any bad outer leaves. You also can chiffonade the sprouts into tiny ribbons – they cook quickly this way, but it’s more work. Saute them in a little butter, add chopped shallots or a mild onion, sauteeing until the onion is translucent. Add chopped pecans (or walnuts or almond slices) and chopped cooked bacon. Continue cooking until sprouts are tender and begin to caramelize and nuts are toasty. Serve at once.

About that duck fat — the Chowhound newsletter was talking about diners swooning over potatoes fried in duck fat. I completely understand: duck fat makes the best French fries on the planet. I get them at Cafe Joley in Boca Raton. (Sexiest teeny bar in the area; think Talouse-Lautrec. Order your potatoes and eat them whilst sipping a glass of sauterne or a reisling.)

Potatoes in duck fat with apples

Potatoes in duck fat with apples

Tossing chunks of potatoes in the fat, and roasting them with apple chunks and a little onion, is second. Instead of potatoes, try rutabagas, carrots or beets. But other uses: Wipe duck fat on a chicken, or turkey skin and you’ll have the crispiest bird ever. Croutons made with duck fat make a stuffing like you’ve never had before. Float them on a creamy potato soup and you’ve got the meal of the moment. All hail duck fat!

Tags: Recipes: What's Cooking!

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 scottsfla // Dec 19, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Sounds yummy. Scott Simmons

  • 2 scottsfla // Dec 19, 2008 at 11:22 am

    And I’m reminded of the time a certain Mrs. Norris made me a lunch that consisted of pimiento cheese sandwiches and Brussels sprouts. I think she sauteed the sprouts. It was a strange combination that worked, with the tang of the cheese playing off the potent sprouts.

  • 3 Jan Norris // Dec 19, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Ah, yes. We eclectic, creative cooks always work with what we’ve got on hand.

    Lesson here, too: No matter what you serve, as long as you do it with confidence and aplomb, making your guests feel special all the while, your meal will be a success.

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