Monday, December 17, 2007
In the not too distant past I avoided brussels sprouts almost as assiduously as I did (and do) peas. Almost. And then, at a Christmas party six years ago, J cajoled me into trying this warm salad of shaved sprouts and pancetta. Twas bliss in a bowl.
I'm going to be very honest with you and admit that if you're making this for more than three or four people, the prep is a PITA, but I promise you on my love for Jeremy Irons, Kris Kristofferson and my border collies that the result is worth the work.
Oh, and if you aren't willing to search out duck fat, you'll never achieve the taste nirvana of this dish, although chicken fat probably would work *almost* as well. You need only two ingredients in addition to the sprouts and fowl fat: pancetta and white pepper. No salt: the pancetta does that duty.
This is one of those annoying no-quantities-specified recipes--you have to play around with it a bit to discover the proportions you like best, but as long as you apply a modicum of common sense, you're going to end up with a delicious result.
The basic method: fine-chopped panecetta is sauteed in a bit of duck fat until it is browned but not yet crisp and then a mound of shaved-as-thin-as-possible brussels sprouts is added to the pan, tossed just until wilted, seasoned with white pepper and then served promptly.
The PITA factor? You have to shave the little sons-of-cabbages on a mandoline or Japanese slicer to get truly thin strands and, god, it gets tedious after a while. But, no whining. The chef who gave me the recipe prepares it for the staff Christmas party each year and he told me on Sunday that he'd spent an hour and a half that morning slicing enough sprouts to satisfy a hundred people.