The Little Cabbage that Could

February 14th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup

It pains us to even admit this, but it took us a long time to come around to Brussels sprouts. They didn’t crack the dinner rotation until we were well into our 30s, with two kids, a mortgage, a dog, and a creeping difficulty reading the fine print on aspirin bottles. In other words, until we were full-fledged adults. But in our defense: When we were kids, way back in the 80s, Brussels sprouts, like liverwurst and canned sardines and that weird gelatinous pate you’d see at our parents’ dinner parties – was a grown-up food, a punch line food, the kind of thing you associated only with thinly veiled threats. “OK, guys, if you don’t eat your Brussels sprouts…”

From an early age, then, it was drilled into our heads: Brussels sprouts were something to be choked down. They were what had to be endured if you wanted your bowl of Rocky Road. One thing you learn as a parent, though, is that you are not necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. With our kids, we could start over. We could change the narrative. We could, if we went about it the right way, get them to like Brussels sprouts. So a few years ago, we set out to try. We spied a billy-club-size stalk of fresh-looking sprouts at the farmer’s market, brought it home, and began experimenting. And by experimenting, we mean spinning. “Baby lettuces,” we began calling them.Hey kids, aren’t they cute? We shredded and sautéed them (“Look kids, it’s like confetti!”), then tossed with fettuccini and Parmesan; we blasted them at high heat in the oven, and dressed them up with mint, cilantro, fish sauce, and Rice Krispies. (“Can you say Mo-mo-fu-ku, kids?”) But it was, of course, bacon that took us to the Promised Land. We fried some Brussels in bacon fat, drizzled them with cider vinegar (they love a little sweetness), then watched as our daughters popped “baby lettuce” after “baby lettuce” into their hungry little mouths. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to like what accompanied (and elevated) our boring old chicken that night. All they knew was that they wanted seconds of this magical vegetable that – bonus! – came with bacon bits on top. And we were only too happy to oblige. – Jenny & Andy

This is our “Providers” column from the March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit — on newsstands today. Please head over to their site for the brussels sprouts recipe. Photo by Romulo Yanes for BonApp.

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Birthday Dinner

May 11th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

If you’re going to have a site devoted to family dinner, you gotta walk the walk, right? So when I asked Jenny where she wanted to eat for her birthday dinner last week, I should have known what the answer would be: home. I huddled with the kids and asked for some help: what should we make? The only requirement was that it be something everybody in the house eats, and it couldn’t be chicken or pizza. Phoebe wanted steak, Abby didn’t. (“It’s not fair!” she claimed. “Phoebe always gets steak!”) Abby, aiming high, suggested something called macaroni and cheese, but Phoebe doesn’t eat pasta. (“Too slimy,” she said.) So we settled on salmon. The question was, how to make this feel more festive than your normal Thursday night dinner? We needed some good sides. We wanted to make something we’d never made before. I had an idea.

Momofuku Brussels Sprouts

We might not have been going out to a restaurant for a dinner, but what if we had one of our most favoritest restaurant dishes at home? We don’t get out too much these days — i.e., ever — but we did manage a meal at David Chang’s Momofuku about six months ago, and Jenny still talked about his brussels sprouts. They were crazily flavorful, charred to a crunch, salty, cilantro-y, and… didn’t they have, like, Rice Krispies sprinkled on top? I wondered if they were hard to make. Turns out, they’re not. (And because we had a good-looking head of cauliflower in the refrigerator, I decided to use that, too.) When Abby found out that her vegetables on this night would include fried Rice Krispies — not to mention sugar — she shifted, like that, from ambivalent skeptic to unblinking believer.

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