For some, Brussels sprouts conjure images of overcooked, odiferous little cabbages. Even those folks should enjoy this treatment of the vegetable as a salad. In fact, they might not even recognize the main ingredient. Tossed with quickly pickled cranberries, the sprouts leaves make a colorful accompaniment to a platter of cold roast beef, lamb or chicken.
Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients. Most of the components can be made in advance and the dish assembled at the last minute.
Make Ahead: The cranberries can be pickled, covered and refrigerated for several months; they improve with age. The vinaigrette can be made 2 days in advance, covered and refrigerated; allow it to return to room temperature before serving, then remove the bay leaf and shake well. The cooked Brussels sprout leaves can be wrapped loosely in a towel or paper towels, placed inside a plastic bag and refrigerated overnight.
- For the cranberries
- 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple cider
- 1/2 cup water
- 5 whole cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- One 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon peeled, coarsely chopped ginger root
- For the vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 small cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more as needed
- For assembly
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, rinsed
- 2 thickly sliced raw bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seed (optional; see NOTE)
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted coriander seed (optional; see NOTE)
For the cranberries: Combine the cranberries, sugar, vinegar, cider, water, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and ginger in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries to a plastic storage container. Add the cooking liquid to cover, then seal and refrigerate.
For the vinaigrette: Combine the vermouth or wine, the onion, garlic, vinegar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.
Grind the coriander and fennel seed in a spice grinder or pepper mill and add to the saucepan along with the oil, lemon juice, thyme, bay leaf, and cracked pepper. Stir to combine, and allow to cool to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
Use a paring knife to trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and peel away the leaves (like removing the petals from a rose).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Have ready a large bowl of ice water.
Add the Brussels sprout leaves to the water and cook for about 20 seconds. (They will turn bright green.) Pour the leaves into a colander and immediately plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Allow the leaves to chill completely, then drain them and refrigerate until ready to serve. The leaves can be wrapped loosely in a dish towel or several layers of paper towels, placed inside a plastic bag and refrigerated for up to 1 day.
When ready to serve, line a plate with paper towels. Cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it is crisp, then transfer to the paper towels to drain. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Combine the Brussels sprout leaves in a large salad bowl with the bacon, 1 cup of the pickled cranberries (avoid transferring the whole spices) and just enough of the vinaigrette to thinly coat the leaves. (Discard the bay leaf.) You may have some leftover vinaigrette to keep for another use. Sprinkle with the toasted fennel and coriander seed, if using.
NOTE: Toast coriander and/or fennel seed in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, shaking the skillet occasionally to avoid burning. The spices should be fragrant and lightly browned.
Adapted from a recipe by Patrick O'Connell, chef-proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington.
Tested by Mary Pat Flaherty.
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