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Bacon Brussel Sprouts by Gene Munson Barry
My Bacon Braised Brussel Sprouts
I was going to cook dinner for my wonderful wife and some of our friends one night and I wanted to have brussel sprouts as a side dish. I love brussel sprouts but realized that many people don't. I decided to chose brussel sprouts as a side dish but to prepare them creatively. I wanted to do something different that would be adventurous but also inviting to those who are hesitant about trying them. I must admit too that I just love trying to come up with new ideas.
In fact our friends husband doesn't eat brussel sprouts normally, but when he was here he actually went back for a third helping, suprising us all..... wow!
The recipe below is what I came up with for our side dish.
- 1-1/2 pounds Brussel Sprouts, Look for brussel sprouts that are nice and green and tightly wrapped. Washed.
- 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) Bacon, Diced into small squares. I of course try to pick out bacon with the least fat.
- 1-2 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped (we omit this)
- Thyme 4 sprigs, leaves removed from stem and chopped
- 2 cups Chicken broth, your choice (some people prefer low sodium and/or low fat
- Dash Kosher salt, sprinkle lightly, people can always add more at the table
- Dash Black pepper, we like freshly ground and go light, people can add more at the table
- 3 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, buy good quality
- Sprinkling Panko bread crumbs
- Sprinkling Parmesan cheese
I find that if I need to cut my bacon into small bits it works real well if I freeze the bacon then when I take it out of the freezer and while still frozen it is much easier to cut into small bits.
In the photo I show the cooked bacon after I have drained the excess fat that comes from the bacon when it cooks down. I also put it on a plate with paper towels which absorb more excess bacon fat.
As I usually don't prefer the bacon to be soft and what I call chewy, I usually cook to a crispy golden brown. This can be crumbled easier also, so be sure to cut the strips into small chunks at the beginning.
Brussel sprouts on the stalk.
If you have never had the oportunity to see how brussel sprouts grow, it's actually sort of amazing when you first see them on the stem. The photo above is a stalk of them after harvesting. When you see them on the stem, it becomes obvious that they are indeed related to broccoli.
Prepare brussel sprouts.
While the bacon is cooking I usually start to prepare the brussel sprouts. Usually our store here has the Brussel sprouts off the main stem that they grow on, so this allows the stem end of the sprouts to dry out and turn brown. I cut this portion of the stem off rather than try to use it.
I also begin to prepare my herbs that I use while the bacon cooks.
Here's how I get my herbs.
Again remember that I enjoy rasing my own herbs, so here's another example of my herbs. I read a long time ago in "Mother Earth News" that a great way to grow your garden without weeds was to place multiple layers of newspaper between the rows then cover with a layer of dirt. Well I figured the weeds could grow in the dirt so I decided to use grass clippings to weigh down the newspaper.
This turned out to be such a wonderful method;
(1) because it works as a moisture barrier, (so during hot dry summers the moisture is maintained under the layers of paper and grass clippings.
(2) The grass clippings turn a brownish color once dried so that it looks like dirt from a distance.
(3) I can weed the whole garden in less time that it would take anyone to drink a half cup of coffee.
(4) plus if it does rain I can walk through the garden without getting my shoes all muddy from the wet soil.
(5) Another great plus to this method is that the paper and grass de-compose during the winter and can be tilled back into the ground the following spring. The grass works like an added fertilizer. I don't have the hassle of trying to recover or dispose of the plastic that most gardeners use. Also it's like re-cycling the news papers.
I have the chicken broth out and ready to use along with the other ingredients.
Add chicken broth
After I have the chicken broth added, I then add the pre-cooked bacon bits. I suppose that a person could purchase store baught bacon bits and use them. I prefer the flavor of my cooked bacon better.
In my next photo I show the bacon being added. In these photos you see a hand with a pink shirt on. This is a lady that is staying with us for a while. I have been working with her teaching her to cook, and some of my recipes that my wife and I find we really enjoy.
Add the thyme.
After the broth and bacon is added I add thyme with the stems removed. I'm not suposed to eat much salt so I usually increase my usage of the herbs that I use. For this particular recipe as you can see I have used a couple of packages of fresh thyme that my store sells. I don;t mind using these packages as they are sold as organic which I'm sure comes close to my home grown thyme.
Add the balsamic vinegar
Next you need to measure out and add balsamic vinegar.
Balsamic and cider vinegar are both used in salad dressings and marinades. Balsamic vinegar is darker, thicker, sweeter and more complex than cider vinegar. Balsamic vinegar's unique flavor allows it to be used in ways that would not be suitable for cider vinegar's stronger tart flavor, such as drizzled straight from the bottle over desserts, vegetables and roasted chicken.
Using Parmesan Cheese
We find that buying a chunk of parmesan cheese and grating our own has a better flavor than the store bought pre-ground parmesan style.
True Parmesan cheese has a hard, gritty texture and is fruity and nutty in taste. Parmesan cheese has many uses such as grated over pastas, used in soups and risottos. A hard, sharp, dry Italian cheese made from skim cow's milk. It is straw-colored and has a rich flavor. Aged: 12-16 months. It is made all over, but the best comes from Italy's Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is often aged 2 years. It is delicious just by itself and melts in your mouth.
My wife's friend
One time my wife's friend visited from Minnesota, and she loved that I do so much fresh cooking. Well she saw that I grate my own cheese but did not have anything but small flat style graters. So she sent me one from Minnesota after she returned home. I love it and it works so well.
Grate your Parmesian
Ready to bake
Have your oven preheated to 350 when you place the mixture in to bake.
this is our stove that we purchased used and it works well. Even though it is old.
Panko Bread Crumbs
After you have grated the parmesan over the entire top of the sprouts spread a layer of Panko bread crumbs over the entire top of the sprouts,\ before you place them into the oven.
Always be careful when placing a pan in a pre-heated oven that you do not burn yourself.
Japanese style Panko bread crumbs are traditionally used for coating deep fried foods. There is a big difference between Panko and standard bread crumbs bought in the USA. Panko bread crumbs are made from breads where the crust has been cut off. The then crustless bread is ground into large flakes that are airy and create a light crunchy coating. Panko bread crumb flakes tend to stay crispier than standard breadcrumbs because the don't absorb as much grease.
Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
No one knows the origin of brussels sprouts, though it's logical to assume they originated in Belgium. Like nearly all vegetables, brussels sprouts are naturally low in fat and calories. But unlike most vegetables, brussels sprouts are rather high in protein, accounting for more than a quarter of their calories. Although the protein is incomplete -- it doesn't provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids -- it can be made complete with whole grains. This means you can skip a higher-calorie source of protein, like high-fat meat, and occasionally rely on a meal of brussels sprouts and grains.
Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamin A, folacin, potassium, calcium. They have 3-5 grams of fiber per cup. Brussels sprouts are one of those foods that will fill you up, without filling you out,always a plus for weight loss.
Brussels sprouts are very high in fiber, and they belong to the disease-fighting cabbage family. Brussels sprouts may protect against cancer with their indole, a phytochemical. They are also particularly rich in vitamin C another anticancer agent.