Wednesday, January 19, 2011

French cooking Dutch vegetables: the perfect sprout

Produce stand II

My boyfriend has snitched the copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking that was given to us this Christmas for his train-reading. I find it funny, almost, because we can't afford half of the meats that are listed, and even if we could, I don't eat any of it. Plus, in spite of all my insisting to the contrary, he maintains that vegetables are more difficult to cook, and so will never use a good third of the book.

Personally, I never believed that. But then again, I also find baking easy, but apparently that flummoxes most people, too.

Vegetables are all about timing, just like baking is all about measuring. Julia Child's book likes blanching, where you boil the vegetable until just-cooked and then dump it into a bunch of cold water. It works really well, and the vegetables keep their amazing shade of just-done-to-perfection green for days on end. I did this to a whole package of Brussels sprouts on a Monday a few weeks ago and they were still green on Thursday.

I'm a bit of a Brussles sprout fiend--I've been known to eat a whole package in a single sitting (I think I was craving fiber). I love them so much that I have to consciously not buy them on the weekends, lest I bore my boyfriend to death. I like them fried in a pan, but if your significant other is like my boyfriend and deathly allergic to anything so heretical, here is the recipe for the perfect Brussels sprout, cooked the Dutch way, to a French standard:

  • Brussels sprouts, trimmed: hack off the bottom, and score a cross into the bottom of the sprout. This is so that the hot water can get into the center. Personally, I've never known this to make the least bit of difference, but we're going for authentic-fusion-icity, here, so the little X it is.
  • 1 pot of boiling water, a bit over 2 liters for 500 grams of sprouts. Americans: that's a little over a half gallon per pound. You can use a lot more water, but not a lot less, because what you want is a rapid return to boiling, because that's when the sprouts are cooking.
  • Dump sprouts in the water, and return to boiling, for 8-9 minutes.
  • Drain and immerse in cold water. When they've cooled, let them drain and dry. Julia Child says that you should spread them out on a sheet to dry. I think that's a little excessive.
Now, at this point, you have a bunch of cold, sprouts. Heat up some butter in a pan, and toss the sprouts in and warm them up, and if you're going for all-out Dutch-ness, a sprinkle of nutmeg. Otherwise, salt-and-pepper to taste.

But the point is, do not try to keep the cooked sprouts warm. Reheat them--even in a microwave, if it comes to that--just before serving. This is why blanching works so well when you're only cooking for one and have vegetables for five.

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