Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cherry & Pecan Brussel Sprouts With A Tarragon & Madeira Wine Reduction (GAPS, Paleo Options, Vegan)

If you happen to be one of those people who automatically turns your nose up at the mere mention of Brussels sprouts...prepare to be charmed! These are not the bitter, soggy, overcooked Brussels sprouts that your grandma used to make (no offense to grandma intended...I mean, I like them so mine must have done something right)

Here again, you may notice the continued obsession theme of cherries & Valentine's! Yes it's true; I can not help myself! They complete me! So here we are again; and what better match for warm savory Brussels sprouts could there be than bright, sweet, plump cherries? (....and of course pecans because everyone knows Brussels sprouts MUST be paired with pecans). I also recently added another 'must have' to my Brussels sprout repertoire....Madeira wine. Apparently it's all the rage these days, and I can see why: It's pure heaven in a bottle.

For all you Paleo folks out there...don't worry, this dish will still be great for you too. You'll just skip the last step in the recipe. My husband has officially certified it "awesome" this way, when he nearly ate the entire dish before I could finish the last step of adding the reduction sauce!

This also applies to GAPS people as well, however if you are on the full GAPS diet, it is technically OK to have dry wine in moderation...and I would highly recommend it here!

The secret to making good Brussels sprouts, like most veggies, is that it's all about the preparation. To start, try to select ones that are free of brown spots. They should be firm and not spongy  Next, you want to wash them well...of course. Now here comes the IMPORTANT part. Trim off the stem and peel the outer layer off of every single Brussels sprout. This may seem excessive, and I know that as you do this and see the size of your sprout pile shrinking it may seem like a real waste, but the bigger waste would be to make your dish and have nobody eat it because it tastes bitter and nasty. So just feed the scraps to your rabbits or throw them into to your compost mix. Trust me, it's worth it.

Cherry Pecan Brussels Sprouts With Tarragon & 

Madeira Wine Reduction


2-3 Tbs olive oil (or more as needed)
2 cups of trimmed, then halved brussel sprouts
1/4 cup (or more if you like) pitted and halved fresh cherries 
1/4 cup broken pecan pieces or halves (click HERE to find out more about pre-soaking & dehydrating nuts)
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (about two medium sized sections)
Coarse sea salt to taste
Cracked pepper to taste

Reduction sauce: (Skip sauce for  Whole30)

1/2 cup dry Madeira* wine
5-6 cherries, pitted and very finely chopped

2 tsp fresh tarragon, bruised and finely chopped (This will be added earlier if you omit the sauce)

Prepare the brussel sprouts as noted in the post then slice them in half. 

Wash, pit and slice the cherries in half. If you don't have a cherry pitter then run a small paring knife vertically around the pit, spilt the halves and remove the pit.

Peel away the outer layer of the shallots and thinly slice them.

Bruise the tarragon with the flat end of a large knife (this helps release it's flavor). Then finely chop it and set it aside in a small bowl.

Pre-heat your skillet over medium heat (I prefer cast iron for this dish). Add the oil and the shallots. Cook the shallots for about 5 min or until they just start to turn golden. Use a fork to pull the shallots into a small bowl. Set aside. 

At this point, you can add a little more oil if needed. Turn the heat up to med-high and place the brussel sprouts in the pan, flat side facing down. Spread them out evenly around the pan. Cook them until they brown on the flat side and begin to crisp up a bit (about 3 min). Then toss them around, cooking and stirring as need till they are just cooked through (about 8-10 min). Alternatively, you could roast them in a 450 degree oven at this stage, if you wanted to. I prefer pan frying for this one, as it adds to the flavor of the sauce later. Add in the pecans, cherry halves and shallots around 5 min before the sprouts are done cooking. If you are omitting the reduction sauce, you will also add the finely chopped tarragon at this time. 

Remove all the ingredients from the skillet and set aside in a clean, medium sized bowl. (as you can see I am not big on one bowl cooking. LOL!) Keep the heat on and leave any oil that is left in the skillet.

Making the sauce:
Pour a 1/2 cup of the wine into the hot skillet. Add the prepared tarragon and the finely chopped cherries to the skillet. Continue to cook the mixture down till it is reduced by a little over half. This should take about 4-5 min. You want just enough sauce to lightly coat the brussels sprout mixture...but not  to drown it.

When the sauce is ready, transfer the brussels sprout mixture back into the skillet, tossing till the reduction sauce is well combined.

This dish can be made ahead of time and reheated under a broiler. You can also wait to make the sauce until the dish is reheating and add it just before serving.

*Madeira wine is 18% alcohol by volume which means that it is 2% too high to be sold in regular stores.  You'll need to visit a local liquor store to get it.  Most stores have a cooking grade, and a drinking grade.  I suggest getting the drinking grade because of taste and also because the cooking grade often has salt and pepper added. That, and I can take a swig here and there while I cook!