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Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

I look forward to Brussels sprouts in autumn very nearly as much as I hungrily anticipate the arrival of asparagus in the spring. This recipe has been a stalwart for many years and never fails to win over sprout-skeptics. It’s all baritone saxophone – big, brassy brassica tones and low, smoky bacon. Sweet, velvety shallots linger like a half-forgotten melody, tipsy with a splash of wine.

 

Ingredients:

500 g Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved

250 smoked bacon lardons (or pancetta, oh my)

3 large shallots, diced

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

Dry white wine

 

Method:

In a very heavy, preferably cast iron skillet, fry the bacon or pancetta over medium heat, till it begins to render its fat. Add the diced shallots, then the Brussels sprouts shortly thereafter. Let the shallots caramelize on the bottom of the pan slightly before stirring the sprouts through. Again, allow to rest on the heat till the sprouts brown on one side, then cover the pan with a lid. Turn again a couple of times so that the sprouts are sticky and browned. If things start to stick, deglaze the pan with a splash of wine. Serve forth when the Brussels sprouts are just cooked through and slightly soft.

This dish beautifully accompanies all manner of meats, and is a star vegetable at a Thanksgiving feast.

Steamed Mussels with Cavolo Nero and Bacon

This time of year mussels aren’t at their best – but how can one do without them? This recipe allows a couple of other big ingredients to have their say alongside the mussels in a really meaningful way, so the very best mussels aren’t necessary. If you’ve got fantastic mussels Moules Mariniere is the appropriate treatment. When are mussels at their best? In autumn and winter when they are fat and sweet.

Ingredients:

1kg mussels, washed and debearded

250g bacon lardons

400g cavolo nero, very roughly chopped

1 small bunch of parsley, chopped

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

a glass of white wine

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

Method:

Fry the bacon until crisp in a large, deep stockpot. When the bacon is nearly finished, scatter in the garlic and allow it to brown and crisp just a bit. Remove promptly to a bowl and introduce the shallots, celery and wine. Once these come to the boil, throw in alternating handfuls of mussels, kale, and parsley, cover, and steam until the mussels have opened. At the last, add the garlic and bacon back to the pot and stir through.

Serve with plenty of good bread.

Caldo Verde

In Portugal it seems as though every meal begins with caldo verde – green soup. My friend Ilda’s family in the far northeast of Portugal, where caldo verde originates, eat it everyday without fail. chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage and couve galega kale crowd into a potato and onion broth in a soup possessed of enough savour and solidity to form the centre of a light supper flanked by a romaine salad dressed with lemon and salt and a good crusty bread. It’s also just the right touch served before a main of grilled fish.

You can adjust the water content of this soup to thin it or thicken it as you desire, or fry the sausage before adding to the soup, but to get this absolutely right you must use the Brassica known as Couve Galega (in English it is called Collard Greens, Tree Cabbage, Walking Stick Cabbage, or Jersey Cabbage), and in order to obtain it in the UK it is generally necessary to grow it yourself. couve galega has large, flat, paddle-like leaves that somewhat ridiculously crown a tough, gangly stem that will rise to head-height. Its strong flavour is at its best in winter, but the leaves can be harvested year-round. Its heads of flower buds can also be steamed and eaten like broccoli. For this soup the leaves are tightly rolled and then very finely julienned – again, this texture is absolutely necessary to get the soup just right. There is hope, though, for those without the right Brassica. Curly kale will work, and I would imagine that it might also be possible to use cavolo nero, savoy cabbage or spring greens as well. I found one caldo verde recipe calling for simple cabbage, but this Irish-Portuguese bastard child will never find employment in my kitchen. Would this be Cald O’Verde?

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 small onions, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

750g potatoes (about 6), peeled and thinly sliced

1.5 to 2 L cold water

1 roughly 200g Chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

400 to 500g Couve Galega, very finely julienned

Method:

In a saucepan or stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil briefly (don’t allow them to colour). Tip in the potatoes and keep stirring them until they’re warmed. Add the water, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes begin to fall apart.

Purée the mixture in a blender or with a hand-held food processor. Stir in the sausage and simmer for about five minutes.

Finally, add the salt and pepper and kale and cook for a further five minutes until the kale is cooked but still with some bite to it. Dish up into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.

The sausage may also be fried before adding to the soup, which adds a different dimension to the flavour. Drain the fat off the sausage before adding to the soup or, if your conscience or cholesterol levels allow, pour that in too. It will only add to the flavour.

Here is some music to listen to while you cook:

Patatas Gratinadas con Chorizo

The sweetness of leeks, earthiness of potatoes, smoky, spicy chorizo, and nutty manchego combine perfectly in this simple dish. If you’re cooking this in the US, make sure you use Spanish Manchego – the Mexican stuff, (especially the processed product made by Kraft), is just not the same. Spanish Manchego may be the best cheese for browning there is.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds potatoes

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 large leeks

1/2 lb young Manchego

1 chorizo sausage

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C

Peel and slice potatoes thickly, and cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes, until barely tender.

While this is cooking, slice leeks into slender rounds and then saute them slowly in the butter until soft. Spread the leeks on the bottom of a shallow baking pan. Arrange the chorizo on top.

Drain the potatoes and arrange them over the chorizo. Slice the Manchego thinly and cover the top of the dish thoroughly with it (I usually discard some or all of the rind, as too much of it imparts too much of its own flavour).

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.

Serve immediately. Serves 6.