Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Childhood Horrors

I remember being afraid of monsters under the bed, that if I let even a teeny part of my toe out from under the blankets, that gremlin would grab it with his claws.

Then there was the 'Big Lady and the Little Lady'; two spinsters down the street that took an evening walk each night. They seemed to appear out of nowhere and never spoke a word; dark clothing, heavy coats and hats obscuring their faces didn't help the situation either.

Alas, we come to Brussel Sprouts. Mention the word and watch children, pets and seniors run for the hills. They reflect the American experience with the likes of cod liver oil, collard greens and a chewable multi-vitamin; all disgustingly vile parts of a shared cultural fabric. That which didn't kill us made us stronger. The same could be said for cholera.

No, Brussel Sprouts have a bad rap from birth and some folks that grew up during the Depression
can tell stories of eating them, pinto beans or squash for months at a time,

"Cuz, we couldn't AFFORD meat! We had meat on Sundays and maybe a teaspoon of sugar in our coffee. But, by golly, we had a garden and grew everything that went on that table! Times were tough and Mama did the best she could with what we had. And if I EVER see another Brussel Sprout, it'll be too soon..."

Yikes! That is a tough nut to crack but, once I get a little bacon going in a pan, then add a few bits of chopped garlic, well, as you all know, just about anything can be saved.
I'm getting ahead of myself, backup...

So, I chef at a senior living community which has been a blessing in so many ways. One of the wonderful and often times surprising things is the candor with which old folks will respond. When something is amiss, guarantee that not less than a handful of self-appointed spokespersons will clue you in on a little secret.
Conversely, when things are going swimmingly, you just may get a slap on the back or a simple nod of approval followed by a wrinkled smile and a wobbly thumbs-up.

"Mr. Quinn!" I heard one of my diners in the lobby calling across the mailboxes, "those Brussel Sprouts were de-LISHOUS at lunch! Whatja put in 'em, they were s'good?"
"Well, thank you, Mrs. Kranklebaum, I'm glad you enjoyed them. I boil them in salted water then toss them in a reduction of Balsamic vinaiger. 'Course, bacon and garlic get saute'd first then the whole thing is finished with (whisper) 'butter.'

"You can sure do those again," a voice behind me agreed. I felt an aluminum walker nudge me, it was Mrs. Katz. "But, my grand dad always put ketchup on 'em, so, that's how I like 'em."

"I say just leave 'em like you made them today. If folks don't like it, don't eat it!"
It was Mrs. Franco, a retired Army nurse who saw action in WWII, Korea and early Vietnam.
"They were the best I've ever tasted," she continued, "and keep up the good work; this is the best food I've ever had here and I've lived here for 20 years!" With that, she gave me a wink, a whack on the back of my leg with her cane and off she went through the sliding doors.

Balsamic Brussel Sprouts
2 qts. boiling salted water
4 cups pared Brussel Sprouts, halved lengthwise

3 pcs bacon strips, cut to fork sized
2T. garlic, minced
1/4C. balsamic vinegar
1 stick butter, cubed and cold
to taste salt

Drop all B.S. into the boiling, salted water.
Saute' bacon pieces on medium heat and when almost done, add minced garlic. Warm the garlic until the tiniest pieces get a touch of brown. Immediately add your vinegar and reduce by 2/3. Reduce heat to low and whisk in your lumps of cold butter till each is incorporated into what is now a rich, emulsified sauce. Add salt to taste.
By now, the sprouts should be fork tender. If so, drain and toss with the sauce. Keep warm on the stove top till ready to serve.

These are really a treat; my kids love 'em, the seniors LOVE 'em and you will too!
What have you added bacon, garlic and balsamic to that HASN'T been fantastic?!

Take care, God bless and remember:

"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life aren't Things"

Chef BQ.

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