Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yeah, that's right. Brussels sprouts again.

I am simultaneously boggled and completely understanding about some people's distaste for brussels sprouts. On the one hand: they're awesome. On the other hand: they're pretty pungent and very easy to overcook, and overcooked brussels sprouts are definitely bad, and also... flatus.

My grocery store has this thing where there are a few seasonal items that they get throughout the year, and they just stuff gallon-sized zip bags full of them and sell them like that. Green beans and okra in the summer, brussels sprouts in the winter. The giant bags appear to be the only option, no bulk display anywhere, and I have super weird anxiety about bucking the system when it comes to groceries. It took me years to ask if I had to buy all three items to get the 3/$2.99 price (unless it specifies two different prices, you don't!). So I take my giant bag of sprouts, way more than I really want, and I accept my sprouty future. The bag in the fridge right now was 4.5 pounds when it came home, and let me just say that Keith has not been helping.

So that's one food problem.

The other food problem is Lap Cheong sausage. We picked up a four-pack of "worldly" sausages at Costco this weekend, and the first one we broke into was a Chinese sausage. And we both hate it. I ate one slice of it last night and walked away. I think Keith nailed it on the head when he said, "You can't just add some five spice to an Italian sausage and call it 'Chinese.'" It really does taste that way - the ingredients indicate that the changes are more than that, but there's a clash in flavors that I just find incredibly difficult to get past. I was wondering if this sausage was literally going to go straight to waste, but I wasn't ready to call it a loss just yet.

I started thinking about pairing this mildly offensive sausage with some other bold flavors, and I was inspired by this awesome recipe from Ocean Spray. I thought the pungency of the sprouts and sweetness of some balsamic would do a great job of mellowing out the weird flavor combos in the sausage. Plus, you know. Four and a half pounds of brussels sprouts.

Turns out it was a fabulous idea. With some chopped toasted almonds and quinoa, this makes a great, complete lunch. Success!

Brussels Sprouts

Lap Cheong Brussels Sprouts
Serves 1 as a meal, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1-2 ounce Lap Cheong sausage, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 ounce almonds, chopped roughly
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cores removed, leaves separated
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Cook canola oil and sausage over high heat 1-2 minutes, until sausage shrinks and begins to crisp. Add garlic and almonds and saute for 30 seconds. Add brussels sprouts and saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix water and vinegar together and pour evenly over sprouts. Cook, continuing to stir, until liquid is evaporated. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Have You Met Cranberry Sauce?

First, let me be clear:

I will eat the hell out of a slab of canned jellied cranberry sauce. I do not shun the mysterious cylindrical food object. I just... like options.

The many, many degrees of separation canned cranberry sauce seems to have from cranberries always made me suspect that making cranberry sauce was really difficult, something best relegated to food scientists and large corporations. Monsanto, maybe. I knew that I had witnessed homemade cranberry sauce at family dinners, but I figured it must have taken twice as much time and effort as the turkey.

It's only been a few weeks since I glanced at the back of a package of cranberries and had my revelation:

Cranberry sauce is one of the top ten easiest things you'll ever make. It's almost automatic. You boil your liquid with sugar. You add the cranberries and keep boiling. They pop! They splatter! They ruin your shirt! (Wear an apron, use a lid - do both.) About 7 minutes in, the texture of the concoction changes dramatically - aha! pectin! - and shortly after, your dish is done. If you want to, you can use a spoon or potato masher to break up the berries, but the truth is, they break up quite nicely without any intervention. Pour it into a dish (I recommend wide and flat, for optimum cooling), press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface (unless you're one of those people who likes skin on their puddings and jellies. weirdo.), let it cool on the counter for about an hour, then toss it in the fridge. Another hour, and it'll be just about ready to go (assuming you heed aforementioned wide and flat advice). And just like that, it'll be gone. This stuff is good.

Cranberry Sauce

Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2-1 tsp baking spice (I used a mix of ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg)
  • pinch of salt
  • 12oz bag cranberries, rinsed
Bring cider to boil, add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add baking spice, salt, and cranberries. Simmer over low heat, covered, for about ten minutes. Mash further if desired, and pour out into serving dish. Cover surface with plastic wrap, cool for an hour at room temperature, then toss in the fridge. Watch disappear.