‘Tis the Season for Holiday Vegetables
I didn’t grow up eating brussels sprouts. Most of the vegetables I enjoyed in our multi-cultural home often can’t even be found in a regular grocery store, like Yucca and Malanga. It wasn’t until I had Thanksgiving with my husband’s family in the good old Midwest that I had my first encounter with brussels sprouts. But I’ve grown rather fond of these tiny little members of the cabbage family, and now I can’t imagine a holiday dinner without them. In a way, these little powerhouses are the quintessential holiday vegetable because they’re in season from fall through winter and they’re wonderfully festive when cooked and presented properly.
Vegetable Friends with Benefits
These tiny little veggies pack quite a healthy punch! Not only are brussels sprouts crazy high in Vitamin K and C, but they are also known to possess cholesterol lowering, cancer protecting and digestive health properties. What’s not to love about that? The truth is that I can totally understand why some people have childhood trauma involving brussels sprouts. If you overcook them, they release odorous compounds that will literally stink up your kitchen. Who wouldn’t run from that? But when they’re perfectly roasted and combined with some salty, sweet and tangy flavors, you will absolutely fall in love at first bite!
The Bitter Truth
Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation for being bitter. That’s why it’s important to cut off the ends to allow the outer bitter leaves to slide off. In addition, you can balance bitterness in any food by adding components of acidity, sweetness, saltiness or all of the above. In this recipe, I accomplish that with the addition of sweet maple syrup, tangy balsamic vinegar and salty Pecorino cheese. The resulting melange of flavors is absolute perfection! And if you really want to put this dish over the top, top it off with bacon.
Suggested Wine Pairings
The balancing of the bitter taste of brussels sprouts by adding other flavor components to the recipe itself, can also be accomplished with the careful selection and pairing of wine. In this case, steer clear of any tannic reds as that would only accentuate the bitter taste. Instead, look for a wine with direct fruit flavors, bright acidity and maybe even a hint of sweetness. If you prefer red wines, a bright Italian one like Bardolino, Barbara or Sangiovese would pair beautifully with this Italian-inspired dish. An earthy Pinot Noir would also be a lovely companion. White wine lovers should look for a crisp wine with balanced acidity like a Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio or un-oaked Chardonnay. A fruit forward rosé would also taste great and not overwhelm this tasty dish.