Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weekend Cooking: And I don't even like Brussel sprouts!

Jules was in the zone. Every move she made - bend, open the lowboy, grab ingredients, swirl them in to the pan, toss them over the leaping flame with a flick of her wrist  - flowed naturally. Her mind was a perfect, beautiful blank, empty of everything but the next order, and the one after that, and the one after that, an endless line of rib eye, mid-well, no mushrooms in the garnish; Brussel sprouts side, heavy on the bacon; two lamb chops, normal; a porterhouse, bloody....

She dipped and whirled, leaning up to grab a clean saute pan to reheat the sprouts, and instinctively curved her body inward to avoid Winslow as he spun a set of dirty pans toward the dishwashing station on the back wall.

Flinging a handful of diced pancetta into the hot pan, she let the heat render some of the fat while she checked on her steaks. The big, heavy porterhouse was giving off enough red juice to let her know it was about done, but the rib eye needed another couple of minutes.

Spinning the porterhouse onto an individual serving platter spitting with hot butter, she put it up on the pass for  a runner to grab and take up to the window, then turned back to her sizzling bacon.

Jules stirred the bits of salt-cured meat around, then added the baby Brussel sprouts. As she watched them dance in the molten spiced pork fat, she thought about how much she'd hated these vegetables when she was a kid. her mom had sure never cooked sprouts this way.

Okay, granted - Victoria Cavanaugh pretty much never cooked at all, if she could talk a man into taking her out instead, but still. Jules was a connoisseur of public school lunches and diner specials, and none of them had made Brussel sprouts like this, either.

One of the first things Winslow did every day when he got to the restaurant and started to prep for dinner service was to crank the oven up high and roast a big batch of the tiny green orbs. When he spread them out on a hotel pan, they looked like miniature cabbages, their tightly furled leaves shiny with oil.

When he pulled them out of the oven half an hour later? The were shrivelled and golden, the edges of the tender leaves cured and caramelized to a tasty, dark brown crispness.

He let them cool on the rack, then put them in a container, and when Jules came in to set up her mise en place for the night, she always made sure to keep the sprouts close at hand. They were one of the restaurant's specialties, and she could count on putting out at least twenty orders of sprouts on a busy night like tonight.

Thank God for Friday, indeed. It was the one night they could count on doing at least one full turn, fifty covers, and sometimes even more once the posttheater crowd has a chance to make it from Times Square down to Greenwich village.

Seasoning the roasted sprouts with salt and pepper, Jules savoured the nutty, rich scent rising from the pan as they warmed through . While they got hot, she checked her vinaigrette - a little low - and swiftly added a generous glug of balsamic vinegar and a steady stream of olive oil, whisking like crazy. A sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs from her stash of bowls at the corner of her station, and her stock of vinaigrette was replenished.

Scraping the sprouts and crispy pancetta into a bowl, Jules drizzled them with the vinaigrette and shook the bowl to make them jump. Since she'd done new vinaigrette for this order, she grabbed a clean tasting spoon and popped one of the sprouts into her mouth.

The sharp sweetness of the balsamic vinegar burst across her tongue, and as she crunched into the sprout, she took a second to marvel at the way the little vegetable retained its deep caramel flavor and pleasingly burned edges. A warm sauce would've turned them into the limp, soggy sprouts of her youth, uninspired and unappetizing. This bright vinaigrette elevated them to another level.

A quick dash of salt, a few more turns of the pepper grinder, and the sprouts were done.

There are lots of contemporary romances in particular which combine romance with very prominent foodie themes and I have a half written Weekend Cooking post here somewhere about this very theme. I think it is something to do with the sensousness that is conveyed through the description of food that matches well with romance.

Certainly if I had Louisa Edwards doing this explanation of brussel sprouts for me regularly I would perhaps be more tempted to be brave and them again!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs


  1. They are totally awesome roasted like that and the bacon adds just the right touch. But I like Brussels sprouts anyway.

    And what rock have I been hiding under? I didn't realize that romances could be so foodie.

  2. Oh, there are loads of them. This one is different in that it is set in a kitchen against the backdrop of a cooking competition.

  3. Now I like Brussels Sprouts even more :) I enjoyed this passage. Romance and food go well together!

  4. I've read alot of mysteries with a prominent food theme, but, like BethF, I didn't realize there were foodie-romances as well.
    I love brussel sprouts, much to my husband's disgust, lol.

  5. I never knew you could do all that with sprouts; time to look at them afresh I think.

  6. Wow, look at the cover! This made me smile because if he would cook like that, as some man do, I hope he isn't clumsy because it is so easy to burn yourself ;)

  7. I totally would eat Brussel Sprouts if they were cooked like that! They are my most hated veggie, after asparagus, but this quote had me drooling over them, which is quite a feat! Great post today!

  8. he could cook sprouts for me any

  9. Combination romance/foodie novels? Love it, lol!

  10. Intereseting! Sprouts and vinaigrette. I am not a big fan of Brussels sprouts but they do sound nice!

  11. Normally I'm not a fan of Brussel sprouts but the addition of pancetta could make me like them! That and a chef like the guy on the cover - though honestly, he might scare me, LOL.

  12. Am I the only woman alive who finds that cover fellow ugly rather than attractive?! I hate all that muscle stuff. :<)

  13. Oh it getting hot in here?