There are some foods that only get made once a year or worse yet, only once. Not the bad foods that no one wanted to eat in the first place but the good things that were made for a special occasion and then never thought of again. These mustard-dressed Brussels sprouts* were almost one of them. I made them for Thanksgiving two years ago. They were delicious, everyone enjoyed them, I mourned a little when they were finished, but then that was it. I didn’t make them again all year.
But the next Thanksgiving someone asked for them. Then someone else did. I make a lot of things and people often enjoy the food in the moment but rarely does someone love it enough to ask for it. When it’s two someones you know you have to find a way to make that dish again.
Given my weird love of vegetables as a child, I came to Brussels sprouts very late in life. They never crossed my plate growing up but as an adult, I love seeing the Jack-and-the-beanstalk way they grow when you can get them still on the stalk. Golden brown on one side from a quick roast in the oven is still the easiest way to enjoy them but for Thanksgiving I pulled out all the stops put in slightly more effort.
Part of what makes this dish so good for those months when Brussels sprouts are around is that it is tangy and sweet and salty all at once. Too many fall dishes are heavy and rich which is great except I find myself craving other flavors, like this mustard-rich dressing. It doesn’t hurt that the entire dish takes about a half hour to put together and can be made ahead and kept in its separate pieces until you’re ready to eat.
The original recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine but I took the liberty of upgrading it. Most importantly, the shredded Brussels sprouts are pan fried, not blanches. In most circumstances, boiling is just not as delicious as the golden brown edges you get from pan frying or roasting. For shredded Brussels sprouts there’s nothing lost and a whole lot gained by avoiding blanching in favor of pan frying.
If you don’t have a mandoline (or a food processer with a shredder blade), the hardest part about this recipe is the chopping. If you do have a mandoline, the hardest part is the cleanup. And that’s still one bowl, one pan, and a piece of foil. If that’s not the perfect recipe, especially for Thanksgiving, I don’t know what is.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Candied Nuts and Mustard Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Brussels Sprout Slaw, November 2009
1 ½ -2 lbs Brussels sprouts
2 tbs fat, divided into four ½ tbs (butter, oil, rendered bacon fat, your choice)
¼ cup Dijon mustard (whole grain or not, both are delicious)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup good quality oil, for dressing
2 cups whole nuts (almonds, pecan halves, walnuts, hazelnuts, they all work)
½ cup honey**
1 tbs oil
1 tbs plus 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
Shred the Brussels sprouts either with a mandoline or by slicing them very thinly with a knife until you reach the bottom quarter-inch of the sprout; discard that. If you cut them with a knife, cut the sprouts in half first so they lay flat on the board while you do the thin slicing. It will help keep your fingers safe.
Heat a wide-bottomed pan over medium heat. Divide the shredded Brussels sprouts in to four or six equal portions depending on how large your pan is. Divide the fat into the same number of portions and add one portion to the pan. When it’s melted, add one portion of Brussels sprouts, spread it over the pan evenly, and cook for 3-5 minutes without disturbing the sprouts. When they’re brown on the edges give them a stir, season with a sprinkle of salt and take them out of the pan. Then return the pan to the heat and repeat those steps until all the sprouts are cooked. It should take the 2 tablespoons of fat and the tablespoon of salt.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment of foil. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the nuts, honey, 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt and mix well. Spread the coated-nuts onto the lines pan and bake for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely. Then peel them off the paper/foil (easier to get them off paper) and store them until needed.
In a small bowl or jar, combine the mustard, vinegar, ¼ of high quality oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Whisk or shake to combine the ingredients – the large amount of mustard should help make a good emulsion.***
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat, toss the Brussels sprouts with the dressing. Right before serving, add the nuts to the dish – if you plan to eat some of it as leftovers, save some nuts for later. If you store with them the salad they’ll end up a little soft. Eat warm, room temperature, or cold. The leftovers last for up to a week if you can make it last that long.
* Why yes, you always capitalize the ‘B’ in Brussels sprouts. It’s named after a place don’t you know? You didn’t ? Neither did I until I started wondering why auto-correct couldn’t deal with the lower case ‘b.’
** This is one substitution I would unmake if I still lived on the East Coast. The original recipe uses maple syrup to candy the nuts. Living in California, I don’t have much access to good quality maple syrup and it’s much easier to get good quality honey. If you are lucky enough to live in a place with excellent maple syrup it’s an excellent choice here.
***You don’t need this much dressing for the dish – I generally only use about half in the recipe. BUT it is worth making all of it because it is delicious and tangy and keeps forever and tastes delicious on just about every salad.