In the course of my travels, I have been to Brussels, Belgium a number of times. When I think of Belgian cuisine, I think of enjoying “mussels in Brussels” with divine French fries, an eel dish in a green sauce that was a treat to try—once– great beer and of course, chocolate. Can’t ever remember having a Brussels sprout in Brussels—I’ll have to check on that next time. But I do have a vivid Brussels sprout memory.
Some twenty years ago, some very close friends moved to Santa Cruz, California and I visited them shortly after they settled into their new house near the ocean. It was fall, and early one morning, we went out for a bike ride. It was cool and foggy and as we pedaled the block or two towards the ocean, we passed through acres and acres of lush fields filled with Brussels sprouts—looking quite beautiful and a little eerie with the mist settled just on top of the fields. I was so surprised by how the sprouts looked “in the wild”—like lots and lots of little cabbage lollypops stuck onto knobby green logs. A great memory and a picture in my mind that has never left me and that I think about every time I make Brussels sprouts.
I’ve already shared my recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Pancetta (February 2011 post). Today I’d like to share my Brussels Sprouts Gratin. Nothing fancy here, just perfect comfort food for the fall. You can serve this alongside roast chicken, fish or any meat you choose, and you won’t need anything else, but try to make enough so that you have leftovers—I love to reheat these and have them for my lunch on a brisk fall day.
Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Serves 6 to 8
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves removed, stemmed and halved
4 slices bacon, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup homemade breadcrumbs (see below)
1 tablespoon butter, cut into slivers
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Fill a large pot halfway with water, bring to the boil and season with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, transfer the sprouts to a cutting board, and chop them coarsely.
In a large skillet, fry the bacon until almost crisp. Add the chopped garlic and the chopped sprouts, season with salt and pepper to taste, cook for one minute and remove from the heat. Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a measuring cup and pour evenly over the sprout mixture. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over and top with the slivers of butter.
Bake until the edges are bubbling and the top is nicely browned, about 30 minutes.
To make the breadcrumbs, take day old leftover bread; remove the crusts and pulse in a food processor until it is crumbs. Stir in one tablespoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of kosher salt for every cup of breadcrumbs you have. Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until they are lightly browned, checking every five minutes or so to be sure they don’t burn. Cool completely, transfer to a tin or a ziplock bag and the crumbs will last for a week.