For those of you in the US and living near a Trader Joe’s, you’re probably familiar with the cycle of “seasonal” goodies they rotate through, which seems to reach a peak around the Christmas season. Ever since I discovered that they are one of M.’s favorite vegetables, I’ve always kept a sharp eye out for the appearance of the TJ’s Brussels sprout stalk:
This year, the stalks first popped up in our local TJ’s in October, but the sprouts looked puny and the stalks were sparsely populated. You pay by the stalk and the price is constant throughout the season, so you want to make sure you wait until the stalks are sporting a decent volume of sproutage. This past weekend, I finally sprang for one.
Before I cooked the sprouts, I also decided to do a little weighing of my sprouts, because I wanted to see how the price per pound for the sprouts compares to some of our other commonly consumed vegetables. Results? My $2.99 stalk of sprouts yielded just over 2 lbs of sprouts, so we paid a little under $1.50/lb.
I have a rule of thumb of liking to keep our average produce expenditures under $1/lb, so these are a little pricey, but they aren’t terrible. Kale is definitely worse (we pay by the bunch, but I’ve estimated our cost per pound is about $3. You see why it always gets mixed with that ultra-cheap cabbage, and we chose to try growing kale on the patio this fall!). Anyway. Enough of that little side-track into our kitchen economics. After I’d finished scrutinizing the Brussels sprouts, it was time to get cooking with them.
My two favorite methods for Brussels sprouts preparation are roasting or, as in today’s recipe, pan-frying. A few nicely browned exterior leaves, a slightly sweet and still firm interior. I find that halving the sprouts is the trick to getting the right balance between interior/exterior cooking. While you can get good results from whole sprouts, I just haven’t had the same success rate. Halving seems to elevate this cooking method to foolproof, so it’s well worth the small investment of extra time. And while a pan of sprouts on their own, with lashings of salt and pepper, is a perfectly satisfactory dish to place on your dinner table, the addition of a bit of extra sharp cheddar, melting and turning crisp against the bottom of the pan? It’s a pretty nice direction to take things in occasionally also.
Pan-fried Brussels sprouts with cheddar
makes 4 servings
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 lb. Brussels sprouts,trimmed and sliced in half
2 oz extra sharp cheddar, grated
Black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and Brussels sprouts to the pan and stir to coat thoroughly with oil. Cover pan and cook sprouts for 10-12 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Sprouts will turn bright green and begin to brown.
2. Uncover pan and cook sprouts for approximately 2 more minutes, just long for any accumulated liquid to cook off the pan. Add the cheddar cheese, stir to coat the sprouts. If using a cast-iron or other heavy pan that retains heat, turn off burner and remove pan from heat as soon as the cheddar is mostly melted. The heat retained by the pan will do the rest of the work. If using a less heat retentive pan, allow the cheddar to completely melt and form a few crisp brown pieces on the bottom of the pan, then remove from heat.
3. Top generously with cracked black pepper, a few dashes of salt if you think it’s necessary (be sure to taste first as the cheese adds quite a bit of salt), and serve hot.