Normally, I could care less about whether the side dish I’m making actually goes with the main dish. It’s like wine. I am primarily a red wine drinker. I pair red wines with pastas, chicken dishes, steak dishes, and seafood. Of course, I can appreciate a great white wine. I drink enough white wine now to have an idea of which white wines I like and I can certainly tell when a white wine and the food that it is paired with go particularly well. However, the majority of the time that I choose a bottle of wine to open, that bottle is red.
So tonight, when I started thinking about a side dish for our spaghetti alla carbonara (recipe on Thursday), my first thought wasn’t this dish. First it was sunchokes, then kale, and then finally I looked at the contents of my fridge and decided that Brussels sprouts and pancetta would not only be delicious, but would go perfectly with the guanciale that was slowly sweating on the stove.
I’ve found a new love for Brussels sprouts. One of the few memories I have of my mother cooking (Dad was the cook in our house) is one of her serving me Brussels sprouts. As much as I love my mother, her Brussels sprouts were boiled and otherwise plain. Ugh. It’s no wonder I hated them as a child. (Sorry, Mom. You’re a great cook, but those really were horrible.) Now though, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite winter vegetables.
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts (see preparation notes in step 1)
- 1/4 lb pancetta, thinly sliced and then diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil or lard
- Sea salt
- Slice the bottom stem off of the Brussels sprouts, remove the outer leaves if they are loose and cut in half.
- Boil or steam the Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes, until they turn bright green.
- Drain and douse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil.
- When the pan is hot, add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes or until it has just started to crisp.
- Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Mix in the Brussels sprouts and heat through.
- Serve, topped with sea salt.
Notes: Normally I like my Brussels sprouts crispy. I find they take on a very distinct sweetness when roasted within an inch of their life and when paired with something tangy, like a balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, the flavor is incredible. They just pop, the crispy leaves melting on your tongue, with an inherent ability to take any sauce or marinade and expand the flavor dramatically. These sprouts were meaty, with a completely different type of crunch. The crunch in this dish is due to the sprouts still being just a touch al dente in the middle. Shocking the sprouts in cold water after the initial boil produces the most dramatic green color. Feel free to top with some sesame seeds to bring a slightly nutty undertone to each bite.
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