Yet another installment of my Weekday Lunch series, where I share recipes suited for home or the office.
Last Wednesday night, a colleague of mine had a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving party. The idea is brilliant. Since most of us spend Tday with anyone from parents and siblings to in-laws and cousins twice removed, might as well take the night before to be with friends and surrogate family members, and to toast the holiday in style. And that's just what we did. We ate butter chicken (spicy!) and Brussels sprouts with apples and the most trashy-chic tater tot casserole; we pigged out on pecan bars (from yours truly) and bread pudding and phenomenal ricotta cheesecake; and we washed it all down with lots and lots of bourbon. There truly is no better way to usher in Thanksgiving.
The next day, having landed in Detroit to spend the weekend with D's family, those Brussels sprouts were still on my mind. They were perfectly caramelized, much softer in the middle than I usually make them, and speckled with little chunks of roasted apple, which provided the perfect sweet, tangy contrast to the smoky and just-barely-bitter sprouts.
Last night, I was determined to make something similar. I knew I had some good-looking sprouts from the previous week's farmers market, and I had some vegetarian bacon in the freezer, which I've used to add smokiness in other recipes to good results. I happened to have used up my last apples on Monday to make a crisp, but I did have two seckel pears -- small, crunchy pears with a relatively tart flavor -- that I thought would do the trick. I halved the big sprouts and left the little ones whole, chopped the fake bacon crosswise into short strips (feel free to use the real stuff), and roughly chopped the pears. I tossed all three together on a baking sheet, drizzled a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and used my fingers to coat the mixture. Just before popping the tray in the oven, I sprinkled a healthy pinch of salt and ground some black pepper on top. I baked them at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, mixing it all around at two different points during baking, until the brussels sprouts were fully soft and brown on the outside, the pears had caramelized, and the bacon bits were crispy. When it came out of the oven, I took a nibble to test for doneness, and ended up eating half of today's lunch while hovered over the stove. That should speak for itself.
Brussels Sprouts with "Bacon" and Pears serves 6
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts 3 tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper 2 pears, chopped into a medium dice 4 strips bacon or veggie bacon, diced into small pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the brown tips off the brussels sprouts and slice each sprout lengthwise in half. If sprouts are very large, slice into quarters; if very small, leave whole. In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts, pears, and bacon with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Spread out on a large baking sheet in a single layer and roast, tossing occasionally, until very browned on the outside and soft inside, about 40 minutes. Taste and adjust for saltiness, then serve immediately.