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Friday, November 15, 2013


When it comes to Thanksgiving, I gave up trying to reinvent the wheel. I've mucked up quite a few Thanksgiving staples attempting to reinterpret our favorite family stuffings and side dishes. I won't even mention what I've done to countless turkeys over the years. There was no limit to my insanity. Lessons learned. Some things should be left alone.

Nowadays, we keep things simple and honest.  In the end, it's about remembering our families with the food that we  love.  That being said, on Thanksgiving, Michael has to have his stuff and I have to have mine. When combined, we have enough food for a small army. An army of two. Booya. While we keep the non-negotiable big ticket items rooted in tradition, we leave wiggle room for the bonus stuff. The unexpected extras. We've never been sticklers for the green stuff on Thanksgiving, so we'll mix things up from year to year by throwing together quick steamed broccoli with hollandaise, skillet roasted green beans with fried shallots, buttered green peas, or brussels sprouts. While those play second fiddle to the heavy hitters (in our world), the green stuff is always a nice respite from the array of oranges, grays, and browns. Balance.

Brussels sprouts. You either love them or hate them. We love them. Most people are turned off by the sulfuric taste of mushy overcooked brussles sprouts. When prepared properly, they're nutty, sweet, versatile, and sensational. Whether shaved into salads, deep fried, shredded into slaw, or oven roasted to bring out their inherent sweet nuttiness, brussels sprouts are no longer culinary wallflowers. They're the sophisticated belles of the ball.

Brussels sprouts just might be the perfect Thanksgiving side dish. However they're prepared, they deliver just enough fantastic cruciferous  funk to perk up the savory richness of everything else on the table.

It's hard to resist stalks of fresh brussels sprouts. When I ran across a few nestled on crushed ice in a basket at Good Foods Market and Cafe, I knew I hit the vegetable jackpot.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Prosciutto with Pomegranate Molasses.
With a little forethought, they were a cinch to prepare. Because I have a tendency to get ahead of myself when roasting things together with different cook times, I stepped back and decided to add the ingredients in layers. I've burned my share of onions and scorched plenty of roasting pans with sheer impatience. Trust me. Ask Michael. We have a pot graveyard in the garage.

Using a small paring knife, I snipped the sprouts from the woody stalk. I sliced the larger sprouts (from the bottom of the stalk) in half and left the smaller ones whole.  After tossing them with olive oil, I seasoned them with salt and pepper before tumbling them into a large cast iron skillet.

Brussels sprouts caramelize better and cook faster with high heat, so I slid them into a preheated 375 degree oven to roast for 40 minutes. After 15 minutes minutes, I added 2 sliced purple candy onions from Elmwood Stock Farm and returned the skillet to the oven.  15 minutes later, I pulled the brussels sprouts from the oven and deglazed the hot skillet with a 1/4 cup homemade chicken stock.

When the stock reduced, I drizzled 2 tablespoons of tart pomegranate molasses over the sprouts, gave them a quick toss, draped torn pieces of prosciutto around the glazed vegetables, and slid the skillet back into the oven for 10 minutes to crisp the prosciutto.

After allowing the caramelized brussels sprouts to cool for a bit, I finished them off with a scattering of fresh pomegranate seeds and delicate Long Valley Organics radish micro greens.

Here's the deal,  pomegranate molasses is a misleading misnomer. We tend to think of typical molasses as a wonderfully thick sticky sweet syrupy goo. While pomegranate molasses has the sticky part down, it's  incredibly tart with dark sweet undertones. Combined with the saltiness of the reduced stock, it created a soft slightly acidic tart glaze.

Nutty. Sweet. Tart. Intense. Mellowed by the high heat, the charred brussels sprouts were both crisp and tender. As the crisped prosciutto melted through the soft sprouts, the salty fat tempered the subtle sassy tang of the glaze and countered the vibrant wet crunch of the pomegranate seeds. Killer.

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