I have a friend who has been mostly vegetarian/vegan for a while now. Last weekend we went out for dinner and we ended up having a mostly vegetarian meal. We tend to share meals when eating out, and we have no problem finding tasty sharable vegetarian dishes. Vegan choices are a bit more difficult for me because I am a cheese addict. Even Julie, my mostly vegetarian/vegan friend, agrees non-dairy cheeses are pretty gross unless well seasoned. If I had to be vegan, I would probably scrap cheese all together instead of trying to find a substitute.
If I think about how much meat I eat in general, it’s not a lot. Unless I am making a savory dish intended for my lunch the following week, or going out to eat, I don’t generally eat meat and I don’t keep meat on hand. I do have a pork roast, some ground beef and some chicken in my freezer. But none of this meat is readily available to me, and the meat in my freezer tends to stay there for a while.
So in thinking about how much (or little) meat I eat, I decided it wouldn’t be egregious to have one vegetarian week a month. It’s completely possible I already do this anyway. But declaring one week a month as my meatless week will force me to be more cognizant of my meals and blog about interesting vegetarian meals and side dishes.
To rev myself up for this endeavor, I decided to make a meatless Brussels sprout side dish.
This recipe is adapted from one my Grandma sent me using 1 ½ pounds of Brussels sprouts. I pared the ingredients down to fit the 12 ounces I had in my fridge.
The first time I made this dish, I ended up over-salting it. I love salt. So for me to say something is over-salted, it’s got to be extremely salty. I didn’t bother measuring the salt when adding to the Brussels sprouts mixture, cheese sauce mixture or bread crumb mixture. But I never really measure salt and find that I normally need to add way more than what’s called for in a recipe anyway. So a word of warning: watch your salt in this dish!
I also baked the Brussels sprouts for 20 minutes, which was too long. I wanted to ensure the cheese sauce soaked into the Brussels sprouts and give my additional cheese on top a chance to brown. The cheese never browned, so I had to broil it. But the sprouts themselves were slightly over-cooked. That being said, I knew this recipe had a ton of potential
The second time I made this dish, I pan-roasted my sprouts and garlic in an 8-inch cast iron skillet–there was barely in free room in the skillet. I then removed the skillet from heat and added the cheese, cream, seasonings and breadcrumbs and herbs in that order (instead of mixing the cream and cheese together in a pot). Then I drizzled some additional butter on top of the breadcrumbs. In order to ensure you don’t overcook the Brussels sprouts, I would stick to baking them for 10 minutes only. I think the initial stage where you pan-fry them is most important in regard to how “done” the sprouts will be. If you fry them too long, they will turn out mushy when baked.
This is a fairly fattening dish and not how I eat my Brussels sprouts every day. It would be a nice addition for a special dinner party or holiday meal or if you’re in need of comfort food.
- 12 oz small Brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 T. (½ stick) butter, divided
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¾ c. heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz. grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
- ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- ¾ c. panko
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh Rosemary, oregano, sage, etc. (optional)
- Position a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a 12-inch oven safe skillet, met 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the sprouts, and garlic to pan and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until Brussels sprouts and shallots begin to soften and brown in spots, about 3 to 6 minutes. Do not overcook. Remove pan from heat.
- Meanwhile in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, Fontina, nutmeg, cayenne and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Heat until cheese is melted, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Do not boil. Add sauce to Brussels sprouts, carefully stirring to combine.
- Add panko, parmesan, fresh herbs and a pinch of salt to reserved butter and mix thoroughly. Top sprouts mixture with panko mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven until Brussels sprouts are tender, 10 to 15 minutes, and bread crumbs have browned. If you topped the sprouts with additional cheese, broil for the last 1 to 3 minutes to brown the cheese a bit to create a cheese crust. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.