by: Chef Jim Berman
I distinctly recall the first time I saw a Praying Mantis. I was certain that something was terribly wrong in the world. Images of giant bugs, like I would see in imported ‘70s sci-fi films were dancing around in my 6-year old brain. Giant tarantulas, the size of a Volkswagen would join allegiance with building-size scorpions and take over the world. Well, I was sure that this Praying Mantis was a super-sized grasshopper preparing for world domination, right here in my backyard. Somebody came to my rescue, I am sure, with a laser gun to zap that mutated bug back to its normal grasshopper size. All is well in the backyard again; hide ‘n seek can continue safely, now that the earth's future is safe.
Brussels Sprouts are exactly the opposite! Giant heads of cabbage, verdant and aromatic, layers and layers of leaves nestled together in a density that defies physical understanding had been shrunk to teeny, tiny little marble-sized cabbage-ettes! What is going on here? One minute I am scouring the soggy, water-misted produce display for a specimen to create cole slaw. Easy enough. And, voilá, they have shrunk into little micro-cabbages. What should I do? Should the authorities be notified? What will come of the cole slaw? It would take a hundred of these midget cabbages to create one, discernable helping of cole slaw. Then I remember my Aunt Blanch (true name!) boiling what resembled shrunken heads of cabbage in vinegary water for, what seemed like, hours. Limp and lifeless, my sister and I had to eat our fair share or there was to be no Brady Bunch for us that night! Well, years later I stumbled across my old nemesis, and like that mutated grasshopper in my backyard, those Brussels Sprouts must be conquered. If your disdain for Brussels Sprouts is a shared fear with mine, below is a recipe that may help allay that fear.
1lb, fresh Brussels Sprouts, trimmed (outer, brownish leaves removed, ‘stump’ is scored with a pairing knife to promote internal cooking)
1 cup, tomato sauce (I use that last little bit that sits in the bottom of the jar on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator)
¼ cup, shredded Parmigiano (spring for the decent stuff; avoid that saw-dust, canister stuff at all cost!!)
Submerge the trimmed sprouts in salted, boiling water for 8-10 minutes, striving for tenderness without obtaining mush. While the sprouts cook, prepare a large bowl with ice water. After the sprouts have been adequately blanched, remove them from the boiling water and submerge them in the ice water. This will arrest their continued cooking and allow them to develop a rich, Kelly green color. Remove them from their ice bath and place in small saucepot with the tomato sauce. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the cheese and allow to simmer a few moments longer. Remove from the heat and serve. Makes 5 portions of you are a big fan, however, makes up to 10 portions if you are not a big fan. Hopefully this will remedy your aversion.