Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast: my sprouty piéce de résistance

So some of you have suggested attempting the brussels sprout recipe included a few weeks back on your day of giving thanks. While I've done it in the past, I don't recommend it if you have more than 4-6 people at your table. This year, I need to make a veggie side for 25, and if you think I'm hand-peeling enough sprouts to feed that many, you're sorely mistaken. Instead, I'm going to make this alternative option which is just as tasty, maybe even more so (see: addition of bacon).

I don't know what to call it, other than a hash, because it's got all kinds of things thrown in. And yes, it came about as a result of my fridge-cleaning extravanganza. It calls for sprouts, bacon, pear, thyme and acorn squash.

What you'll need:

sprouts (this number according to how many you're feeding;
estimate at least 7 sprouts per person)
1 pkg bacon (I used applewood smoked)
1-3 acorn squash (again, depends how much you're making)
1 sprig thyme
2-3 pears
coarse sea salt
coarse ground black pepper

What to do:

Pre-heat oven to 450. Halve your acorn squash, scooping out the seeds and pulp, but leaving the firm flesh intact. Pour olive oil into the "bowl" of the squash halves, brush it around so it covers the exposed flesh and then flip cut-side down in a pyrex dish. Bake the squash for 30-45 minutes, They're done when the flesh is bright orange, soft throughout and easily scooped from the rind with a spoon. Remove from the oven, let cool and set aside.

Prep your sprouts by washing, cutting off and discarding the bottom/base and then quartering them. Some of the leaves will come loose, but just keep them in the mix, they'll add nice texture.

Now take your pears, peel them and cut them into a fine dice, forming cubes that are about 1/2" around. Pretty small, you know? I think 1-2 pears is more than enough because you just want a touch of sweetness, not a flavor that overwhelms the savory nature of the dish. Now lightly sauté the pear in butter or olive oil, till it gets soft, but not mushy. Remove and set aside.

Now it's time to fry up that bacon. Choose a nice pig-to-sprout ratio. Don't overwhlelm, but make enough to distribute it evenly through the finished dish. Once it's all nicely browned, remove to cool and retain the grease in the pan.

By now, your squash should be cool and scoop-able. Scoop small spoonfuls of it, or extract it using a melon baller or dull knife. You just want it in 1" bits that will be tossed into the sprouts. Set aside.

Add your sprouts to the bacon grease and sauté, lightly tossing them to they cook through and begin to wilt without getting soggy. This doesn't take long (a few minutes) but taste one to be sure the core is cooked and not raw-tasting. Add your thyme by picking individual leaf clumps off and dropping them in. As always, don't be lazy and rip the whole twiggy stem. I would use a fair amount of thyme, like a couple tablespoons, but season it to your taste. Crumble your bacon on top, toss in your pears and acorn squash and mix everything gently. Season with s&p. Serve immediately.

Believe me, even people who don't like sprouts will dig this dish. The husband made a pig face about this dish (pulling his nose up with his finger) when he learned it had sprouts AND squash, but then he scarfed it down like a happy little porker feeding at the trough. He even asked for seconds. See what you think....


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