I am making ham steak for this Sunday’s dinner. Miriam requested cauliflower and Jan loves Brussels sprouts. I had thought to make two separate dishes, but as I was looking at recipes on-line I saw that several combined these vegetables. For me ham calls for Southern (U.S.) cooking and it is not a Southern recipe if it doesn’t have bacon.
A recent Cook’s Illustrated had an article on persistent firmness. Pre-cooking can give some vegetables and fruits a persistent firmness. The low heat causes an enzymatic reaction between the pectin and the calcium to create a network structure that does not break down in high heat. Vegetables treated this way will not turn mushy from further cooking.
Brussels sprouts take longer to cook than cauliflower. Most of the recipes that combine them have you cook the sprouts and then add the cauliflower later. While the sprouts would not achieve a persistent firmness, I thought that adding them to the precooking stage would at least par-cook them enough that I could roast the vegetables together.
Of the recipes I looked at one called for toasted bread crumbs and the other called for bacon. As Miriam says ,“Why Choose?” Jan does not like bacon, so I decided to serve the bacon and bread crumb on the side, to be added as desired.
Karl’s Southern Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower
¾ lb. small Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 strips bacon, separate uses (leave out and use olive oil for Vegan)
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions, sliced finely
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ cup bread crumbs
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1. Put the prepared Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in a large pot and cover with hot tap water. Let the pot sit for 20 minutes.
Tip: You want the water between 120º-160º F, it should not be boiling, but it cannot be too cool either.
2. While the vegetables are pre-cooking, fry three strips of the bacon until crisp and rendered in a large pan.
Tip: I am transferring the vegetables to a baking tray to roast, but if you have a pan that is oven safe and large enough you could roast them directly in the pan and save on clean up.
3. Remove and crumble the bacon. Set it aside.
4. Drain the vegetables and let them dry for a few minutes.
5. Sauté the garlic in the bacon grease for one minute, until fragrant.
Tip: If you are not strict about your fat intake, you could add another tablespoon (or two) of bacon grease at this point.
Note: Of course, if you are a vegetarian or a Vegan you would leave out the bacon entirely and use butter or olive oil at this point. It would also no longer be “Southern.”
6. Add the vegetables and most of the onions and toss to coat.
Tip: Reserve a quarter cup of the green onion tops as garnish.
7. Transfer the vegetables to a baking tray and spread them in a single layer.
8. Sprinkle the vegetables with pepper and salt and roast them at 425º F for 25-35 minutes, until the sprouts are tender.
Tip: Stir the vegetables half way through the roasting so that the vegetables do not stick to the pan and burn.
9. Without cleaning the pan, fry the remaining bacon. Remove, crumble and add it to the rest.
10. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan and toss to coat them with the bacon grease. Toast them until golden brown.
Tip: You may serve the bread crumbs and bacon separately or mix them together at this point.
Note: You can make fresh bread crumbs by taking a slice of high quality whole wheat bread and grating it on a box-grater. For a toasted garnish, you do not want your “crumbs” to be too fine.
11. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
Tip: If your diners do not object to bacon, sprinkle ¾ of the bacon and bread crumbs over the vegetables in the pan before transferring them to the serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining bread crumbs and bacon, before finishing with the green onions.
12. Garnish with the remaining green onion and serve with the bacon and breadcrumbs on the side.