DINING with DURDEN: Brussels Sprouts

Hello, my name is Durden and I am a Bichon Frise. According to my patrons, that is a kind of dog.

Over the years, my Patron, The Guy, has done a considerable amount of cooking. When he is in the kitchen, I watch his every move. Consequently, I consider myself an expert on many things in the kitchen including the tones various objects make when they hit the floor. From the subtle knock and roll of a slice of carrot to the promising thwack of a slice of meatloaf, I can often determine what The Guy has dropped on the floor without even being in the kitchen. Of course, I use my sense of smell as well. So if I happen to be menacing the group of pigeons our neighbor feeds (for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of me I might add) through the window while The Guy is cooking, my nose and ears will often command me to cease barking and bound into the kitchen for whatever prize awaits on the floor. In many instances, The Guy calls me when something drops. He’s lazy and would prefer I gobble up whatever he dropped rather than clean it up. His calls get more frequent if he’s drinking beer while he’s cooking. I will confess right here that I will oblige almost every time. I’m not interested in Bok Choy, Romaine lettuce or lemons. These I will just sniff and walk away from to his dismay. Everything else, however, I ingest immediately.

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Through my vigilance, I have become somewhat of an expert on what The Guy cooks and how he cooks it. Certainly, you might question taking cooking advice from an animal that eats things off the floor and has also been known to eat trash. What I say to those who would condemn me as an unreliable source of cooking techniques because I occasionally eat trash is: really? You don’t occasionally eat trash? The Guy does it all the time. He kicks on Netflix, sits on the couch with various bags of treats and whines into the phone about how he’s eaten nothing but trash all day long. Hey: we all do it sometimes.

And as far as eating off the floor, I have three words for you: five second rule. Humans made that up. Not dogs.

So this week, I’d like to talk with you about Brussels sprouts. Brussels. Seems the citizens of Brussels like to put their name in front of everything. Maybe I’m just bitter on the word because I had a bit of a bad romantic experience with a particularly mercenary Brussels Griffon. I couldn’t photoshop her out of the pic before press time, in fact. I can’t work photoshop at all. I’m a dog.

Anway: Brussels sprouts are indeed from Belgium. The first mention of them in food lit is from the sixteenth century. They are supposed to be packed with anti-cancer properties which are diluted if you boil them. The Guy says it’s much better for you to roast or steam them. Personally, I could care less about the cancer bit. Dogs live fast and die young. If I could smoke, I would smoke unfiltered Chesterfield Kings like they were going out of style. But I do not have opposable thumbs. Or money with which to buy cigarettes. The Guy also reminds me daily that I do not have a job that would enable me to acquire money.

What The Guy does with these Brussels sprouts is first: he trims any yellow leaves and oxidized part of stems off. He washes them and then blanches them in a steamer insert over a boiling pot of water. He does not cook the sprouts until totally soft. Just soft enough. About 8-10 minutes over full boil.

He then drains moisture from them by putting the steamer insert in the sink while he heats up a non-stick frying pan. He puts a little bit of oil in the pan and gets it piping hot. His words. He addresses me directly: “Piping hot, Durden. The pan must be PIEping HOT.”

He will then take the sprouts and toss them in the pan. He avoids dumping them directly from the steamer insert because of residual water. He does not want to steam the Brussels sprouts further. He wants to get a good browning scorch on them. So he must start nice and dry

After tossing them in the air several times, (dogs note: from transferring to the sink, back to the pan and then tossing, opportunities abound for a stray sprout to land near you. Vigilance is of the utmost importance) and when they all have a good brown on them, he takes one tablespoon of Uncle Berch’s Bacon Chipotle Jam (available at the Pasadena Farmers Market on Saturday mornings) and whacks it right in the pan. Uncle Berch’s is in a small jar and is made by his friends in small batches at the Chefs Center of California. The Guy seems to make yummy sounds every time he uses this stuff. Dog owners note: yummy sounds work better than my name to get me to obey and I am sure your dog is the same. If only you’d just name your dog MMMMMMMMMMM! Anyway, The Guy says that many other types of specialty jams might do: jalapeno, habanero, etc. But he prefers Uncle Berch’s bacon. Ten out of ten dogs would prefer anything with the word bacon in it. True story.

So he tosses the sprouts in the pan more. I am not tall enough to see exactly what he’s doing, and he draws the line at my paws being in contact with any of the cooking surfaces so I can’t, as much as I’d like to, prop myself on the range top, but I think it’s just to make sure the jam is dispersed equally, all over the sprouts. He turns the heat down and cooks them another 8-10 minutes. He gets that jam to “reduce” a little so it clings to every sprout.

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When they’re ready to serve, (in this case it was with mashed potatoes, fried breaded pork loin and gravy) he finishes the sprouts with red bell pepper confetti and sliced red onion. I wasn’t crazy about the onion as dogs are prohibited from eating onion. I tilted my head in disagreement and he asked me what made me think I was getting any of it anyway.

But he then promptly tossed me a sprout glazed with bacon jam (sans cebolla). Tasted so good I started digging an imaginary hole on the bed and The Guy laughed so hard he complained of having a kernel of pork loin lodged in his nostril.

The Guy is a weirdo. But he can be pretty cool.

 

 

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