Confession time: I used to loathe Brussels Sprouts. When I was growing up, I even made up a story to explain the Brussels Sprout. It was, I told myself, a vegetable forced on wartime Europe. I reasoned this lowly member of the cabbage family was so undesirable, it escaped the ration book. What it was doing in post-World War II Canada was beyond all understanding. My attitude towards Brussels Sprouts remained unchanged until only recently. Two things changed my mind. The first was the Brussels Sprouts my cooking pals like Keith and Jeff served recently were not just palatable, they were downright good. And I would likely make a special trip out to the beach to dive into Almond Restaurants’ “Brussels Sprouts Two Ways”. The second was that when searching for local late season produce, our Hamptons farm stands are positively rife with Brussels Sprouts. Of course, the farm stands have long been closed for the season. But the Brussels Sprouts are green and glorious in the supermarket—even if they hail from much further than Bridgehampton. And when I was doing some research into the Brussels Sprout, I discovered why those Canadian Brussels Sprouts of long ago weren’t at all what I was raving about today.
|This beautiful photograph by Nora Conant|
shows un-harvested Brussels Sprouts
in Orient NY
after our last major snowstorm
The forerunners to today’s Brussels Sprout were cultivated in ancient Rome. The vegetable we’re familiar with did indeed come from Belgium, where they were grown in the 13th Century. But in my research, I discovered that the Brussels Sprouts that I grew up with, have been completely re-engineered by the Dutch company Syngenta. Before we get into genetically modified agriculture, you should know that Syngenta’s mission is how to grow more crops with fewer resources and they do so, not by genetic modification, but by good old-fashioned propogation. The effect of their work was that Syngenta developed a Brussels Sprout that was far less bitter than the ones I grew up with and even healthier. That’s quite a feat. The Brussels Sprout is a kind of miracle vegetable. It’s full of Vitamins A and C, folic acid and fiber. They’re believed to protect against colon cancer. And because they’re a source of a second potent chemical called ‘sulforaphane’, they boost DNA repair and block the growth of cancer cells. And get this: while boiling may reduce the level of anti-cancer compounds, steaming and stir-frying do not! So today’s recipe is not just a wonderfully colorful way of using Brussels Sprouts, it’s healthy as all get out.
As Bon Appetit points out, “the trick to a successful stir-fry? Prep everything before you cook”. In this case that means making an Asian-influenced sauce, halving your Brussels Sprouts, slicing your inexpensive steak, and chopping 4 aromatics and vegetables. Before you start prepping, get your Jasmine rice ready. This is a great rice to work with because it’s highly forgiving. I put 1 cup of rice in a pot with several cups of water, stir it around and then pour it into a strainer. The rice goes back into the pot with just 1 ¼ cups of cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Bring it to a boil, turn the heat off completely, cover the pot and in 15 to 20 minutes, it’s ready to serve. If you leave the cover on, it will stay hot and form the perfect bed for your stir-fry. Your beautiful stir fry will be on the table in 25 minutes. Bon Appetit doesn’t call it Fast, Easy, Fresh for nothing. Here’s the recipe:
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
8 ounces flank or skirt steak, thinly sliced against the grain
4 scallions, whites chopped, greens sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
2 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 Fresno chile or jalapeño, sliced into rings
Jasmine rice (for serving)
Whisk oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar,
and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl; set sauce aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer.
Transfer to a plate; wipe out skillet.
Season steak with salt.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over
high heat until just beginning to smoke.
Add steak in a single layer; cook until browned, about 3 minutes.
Turn and cook until nearly cooked through, about 30 seconds.
Add to brussels sprouts.
Add scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and stir
until fragrant, about 1 minute, adjusting heat as needed.
Add carrots and chile and cook, tossing occasionally,
until carrots are slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
and add reserved sauce.
Cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.
Serve with steamed rice and garnish with scallion greens.