My love for Dijon mustard runs deep. It was never an acquired taste—I didn’t even know it fell under that category of foods—and I was sold from the first lick of the spoon. Sold to the point where we go through a minimum of one, sometimes two jars a month.
Brussels sprouts on the other hand are a completely different story. I didn’t like it as a kid, but no surprises there, right. I went to boarding school in a hill station town, about three hours away from home. My parents would drive up every month to take me out for the weekend and invariably, always on the agenda, was a visit to the local fruit and vegetable market before dropping me back to school. For nine years—until I graduated—they had this routine.
As is the case with frequenting markets, over the years you form personal relationships with the grocers and gravitate towards your favourites. It was always the same garlic vendor (whose kids sometimes got my hand-me-downs), the same lady for the beets and carrots, and the very same spirited man who sold us Brussels sprouts, cabbages and his particularly popular ‘sweet peas’ (regular peas, but so tender and juicy, you could break open their pods and eat them as is).
Not to break that idyllic image in your head or anything, but man I hated those trips. I’d sulk and mope and be relentlessly cranky. What’s completely fascinating to me about recalling this story is that, that same girl, years later, now plans entire vacations around going to markets! Fish markets, flea markets, flower markets, farmers markets, you name it. I am that person that does these things now. Like WHAT IS THAT. Anyway, back to the Brussels sprouts–my parents always bought them and forced me to eat them. Hated then. Love now. Story of my life, featuring the sprout. (My dad still has his friend bring back bags of garlic from the same vendor every time he visits.)
I use this dressing a lot for salads and to marinate chicken with, so I was fairly confident it would work here. The sprouts by themselves are slightly bitter. The maple syrup provides an almost woody sweetness, and the bacon a savoury salt hit. Dijon mustard gives you piquancy, and lime sourness. Check and check. Perfectly harmonious. This is meant to be a side dish but if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up eating the entire half a kilo of it for dinner. Serves 3-4, pfft. Jokes.
3-4 as a side dish
- 500 grams Brussels sprouts
- 3-4 rashers of bacon (I used streaky bacon, but any kind will do).
- 25 grams Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
For the dressing:
- Chop off the hard white bottom of each sprout and halve lengthwise. Discard the old outer leaves if any. Thoroughly rinse under running water, drain, and set aside.
- Add Dijon mustard, maple syrup, lime juice and minced garlic to a small jar. Shake to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Remember the bacon is going to be salty too. I didn’t have to add any extra salt to this dish at all).
- Chop the bacon into small pieces and add to a large skillet. Keeping the heat on low, move it around until it starts to crisp up. You want it to get really crispy and golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bits and set aside, leaving behind the bacon grease in the skillet.
- Tip the Brussels Sprouts into the skillet and stir so the bacon grease coats them evenly. Try and flip the sprouts with a spatula so that the cut side is at the bottom. Turn the heat up and let the sprouts get some colour and char marks on them - about 3-5 minutes.
- Once the sprouts are lightly charred on one side, add a splash of water (about 2 tbsp). Cover and cook over a medium heat until a knife pierced into a sprout yields slightly, about 5-7 minutes. Make sure it’s still al dente and holds its shape; not mushy.
- Add the dressing over the sprouts and stir to coat evenly. Grate over half the amount of Parmesan and toss through. Grate the remaining cheese over the top just before serving. Can be served hot or at room temperature.
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