Friday, February 20, 2015

Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts from Fine Cooking Italian

When I got a copy of Fine Cooking Italian, I bookmarked a ridiculous number of recipes. I love pasta, I love tomatoes, I love cheese, and I love any food that is in the slightest bit Italian.

Before you ask if the recipes in this book are authentic Italian - well, the tagline for the book is "200 Recipes for Authentic Italian Food," so there's that.

Whether there are grandmas in Italian villages who are making these recipes - well, I haven't a clue. And I really don't care. What I do care about is whether there are recipes I want to make, and whether they taste good.

Obviously, I wanted to make them, and I've already tried a few, including a pasta recipe with cauliflower that looked unassuming, but tasted really good.

But then I thought I should try something that wasn't pasta, and a recipe for Brussels sprouts caught me eye. I like Brussels sprouts a lot, but I'll be honest and say that I'm usually not all that creative with them.

These were glazed with reduced balsamic vinegar and accented with crisp bits of pancetta.

Unfortunately, fresh Brussels sprouts were nowhere to be found, so I used frozen instead. It changed the cooking a bit - they didn't brown quite as quickly as fresh ones would have. But the end result was still good.

In the end, this wasn't the prettiest dish I've ever made - the super-dark reduced balsamic vinegar coated the sprouts and made them ... well, dark.

If the color is too dark for you, a white balsamic vinegar or maybe a sherry vinegar would work. I haven't tried either one, but it seems like it could be okay.

If you're worried about how tart this dish might be from the 1/4 cup of vinegar, keep in mind that reduced balsamic vinegar is actually just a little sweet. Meanwhile, the pancetta added its savory and salty goodness. It's not like a salad with vinegar. It's savory for sure, but not jarringly tart.

Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Adapted from Fine Cooking Italian - recipe by Ruth Lively

2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 - 2 ounces olive oil
10 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved through the core
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter

Choose a large saute pan that will allow you to fit all the halved Brussels sprouts in one layer. And make sure you've got a lid for the pan, too.

Add one tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and heat on medium-low heat. Add the pancetta. and cook until crisp, about 10 minutes, stirring as needed.

Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.

There should be about 2 tablespoons of oil left in the pan, If you don't seem to have that much, add some additional olive oil.

Arrange the sprouts cut-side down in the pan. Since I was using frozen sprouts and they were a little wet, there was some spitting, so I turned the heat off to add the sprouts to keep my fingers from harm's way. Fresh sprouts would likely be less likely to cause the oil to spit. Or use tongs to add and arrange the sprouts to avoid the splashing oil.

Turn the heat up to medium high and cook the sprouts undisturbed until they're nicely browned on the bottom. My frozen sprouts took about 5 minutes, but fresh ones should take just 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the water, cover the pan, and let them simmer until fork-tender but not mushy, about 3 minutes. If the water evaporates before the sprouts are tender, add a little more water, 1/4 cup at a time, as needed.

Remove the sprouts with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate.

If there's any water left in the pan, let it cook off with the pan on medium-high heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of pepper. Boil the vinegar until it's reduced to about half its original volume and it's slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, add the butter, and stir until it's melted. Add the sprouts and pancetta back to the pan, stir to coat the sprouts with the sauce, season with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and serve hot.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.