Thursday, October 10, 2013

Simple Sides

I have a vague memory of brussels sprouts being my all-time favorite vegetable, yet I only remember eating them once, as a kid.  They weren't something we grew in our garden and I think Mom ever bought them, so I don't know why I have this memory of them being something fantastic, but I was eager to give them a try when they came on that big crazy stalk in the bin this week.
I used my tried and true old faithful cookbook, Joy of Cooking, looking for a very basic recipe and it suggested I start out by soaking them in salted water for 10 minutes.  I don't know exactly what that did, but I did it anyway.  Then I cut cross gashes in the stem ends (presumably to help them cook more evenly-which they did).
So I added a stalk's worth to boiling water and let them simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.  The uncovered part is important, as they can put off a great stink if they're left to their own devices.
Once they were tender crisp (not overcooked!) I drained them, added butter and minced shallot to the pan and let that fry up for a bit before adding the sprouts back in and tossing them about.  Finally, I added some bread crumbs for crunch and texture and tossed it all together before serving.
{That greenish pile of slime was a failed attempt at "Buttered Spinach".  NOT a crowd pleaser (even I had a hard time choking it down), so I won't waste space with posting what NOT to make. }
The bread crumbs were nice, but it was the butter and onion flavour that made this a pretty good side dish.  My usual veggie monsters weren't super keen on them, but Mark and I thought they were pretty good.  I think my only change would be that next time I would half or quarter the bigger sprouts so they would cook more evenly with the smaller ones.  

The next simple side is a new favy recipe of mine, although in all fairness, you can't really go wrong with cheese and heavy cream.  But it's Thanksgiving!  Give thanks for living in a place where we can enjoy a little indulgence now and then and cook up this savory treat

Baked Creamy Leeks
1 3/4 lbs of leeks (about four would be perfect), trimmed, quartered lengthwise and chopped.  You may have to rinse them in a colander under the tap to clean them off.
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced.
A bit of thyme (if you have it on hand)
1 cup cheddar cheese (give or take- I used less)
3/4 cup heavy cream (again, give or take)

So basically just toss the garlic in a hot pan with some butter, just until it's starting to take on a little colour.  Add the leeks and the thyme (if you have it) and give it all a stir.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the leeks start to soften (I rushed this step and it was still fine).
Remove from the heat, add some salt and pepper if you want, and the cream and half of the cheese.  Stir and transfer to a shallow casserole dish fit for the oven.  Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes (I rushed this step as well and it was fine, if not a bit runnier than intended).  
The photo does NOT capture how bubbly and cozy this dish is or how tasty it is.  It will be a welcome addition to many Thanksgiving tables with it's fresh, light oniony flavour, but warm creamy cheese to please the pickier palates

Don't forget to give thanks for your farmers this weekend! 


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