brussels sprouts with chestnuts for a harvest dinner
I was talking to my mom
a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that she wanted to send my blog link to a friend, but it had been “so long” since I had last posted, that she didn’t have the link anymore (she gets the feed through email). Yikes! I’m certainly far from the days where I used to post two or even three times a week, but I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad.
The silver lining is that I’ve been occupied with other new and exciting projects, including some freelance writing for these publications, making jam and other treats for my fledgling company Beau Bien Fine Foods, organizing the first-ever (and I hope annual) Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar, and rehearsing and playing shows with Scarlet Oaks. Are you tired just reading that? Combined with house-hunting (we found one! More on this later…) and a full social calendar, I have barely had time to cook lately let alone photograph it or write about it.
When my good friend and Beau Bien business partner Molly organized a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at her place, I was determined not to let the opportunity pass since I had to cook a dish to bring anyway. I had some peeled, roasted chestnuts from the shipment of goodies that Oh! Nuts sent me a few months back and I knew I wanted to incorporate those. I recalled a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast with brussels sprouts and chestnuts and used that as a guideline. The combination of pancetta and brussels sprouts was not new for me, but the addition of chestnuts, marsala and a generous amount of parsley intrigued me.
I got up nice and early (8am) to make sure I had plenty of time to run errands, cook, take pictures, get ready, etc, but was foiled by Michigan’s now-overturned law that you can’t purchase alcohol before noon on Sundays… ugh. That’s not the first time I’ve needed alcohol for Sunday cooking only to have to wait (I never said I was a good planner). I ended up being about an hour late to the party due to the rushing around, but my stress was soon soothed with a delicious glass of bourbon milk punch made by my friend Todd. If you’ve never had a milk punch, think eggnog-ish, but less cloying. As an added bonus, the milk was a delicious raw milk from a local cow share.
Dinner was a mix of old and new foods and friends. Molly’s sister and brother-in-law brought a turkey they smoked in their “egg”, with a subtly smoky flavor that didn’t overwhelm the other foods. The stuffing was made from wild rice and sausage, there was a green salad with fennel and orange, a fresh cranberry relish, and a great roasted cauliflower dish with capers and vinaigrette that, I’m sad to say, completely upstaged my slightly overcooked sprouts. I’m totally cribbing that for the next potluck I attend (don’t worry Evan, Ill give you your due credit!). For dessert, our friends Noah and Liz made sweet potato pie and apple pie. Where I found room for those I’ll never know, but I do know that if I ever make sweet potato pie I’m making it with graham cracker crust. Another idea to appropriate.
After dinner we walked across Lafayette Park (erm, there may have been a bit of stumbling along with the walking- see above) in the unseasonable 65°weather over to Supino’s in Eastern Market, where some friends had broken down a pig and were having a party of sorts. I’m regretting not taking the camera for that portion of the evening, and also regretting not having a second or third stomach to sample some of the treats that were being passed around (slices of pig kidney, anyone?). Hopefully they will feel the experience bears repeating at a later date. I still want to make blood sausage darnit! For now, though, you’ll have to settle for these brussels sprouts… (hey, at least there’s pancetta in there.)
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Pancetta (adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
2 lbs brussels sprouts
8 oz peeled roasted chestnuts
about 6 oz pancetta, diced (three medium-thick slices should yield this)
¼ cup marsala
large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
a couple Tbs olive oil or butter
Notes: The original recipe stipulates boiling the brussels sprouts whole and then adding them to the pan for a quick sauté, but my sprouts were a little on the mature side so I opted for the “shredded” version. If you have smaller, tighter sprouts, I’d maybe go with the original version as it looks a bit prettier. However, the shredded version does have a more homey, comfort-food appeal to it.
Wash and trim the brussels sprouts. Cut in half lengthwise and cut a small notch to remove the toughest part of the stem. Chop each half crosswise into three or four sections to “shred” them.
In a large skillet, sauté the pancetta over medium heat with the olive oil or butter. (The pancetta will render some fat, but the additional fat emulsifies with the marsala later to become a “sauce” of sorts.) When the meat is starting to brown but before it dries out, add the brussels sprouts. They will release some moisture which will enable you to deglaze the pan.
Sauté, stirring frequently, until the thickest parts of the brussels sprouts are al dente. Stir in the chestnuts, breaking them up with your spoon or spatula. Raise the heat a little and add the marsala, stirring well. As soon as it bubbles away, remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.