I’ve been thinking lately about seasonal recipes. In many respects, they’re fantastic. I’m very excited, for instance, about the fresh basil and strawberries of summer. But in other respects, seasonal recipes can be pretty limiting. I have two amazing pumpkin recipes that I’ve been dying to try, but a little voice in my head keeps saying, You cannot make pumpkin dishes in May. You must put those recipes on hold, hidden in a “November” file, where they must stay until they’re wanted.
You might call me insane. You might be right. But regardless of that, I do think it’s true that we have a habit of unnecessarily relegating certain recipes to a couple months per year. I mean, canned pumpkin is just as good now as it was six months ago, right?
Even so, I just can’t bring myself to make pumpkin fritters when everyone else is serving BBQ ribs and lemonade. But Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, are something I’m unable to resist. We normally don’t see these adorable little guys until Thanksgiving, but just last week I happened upon a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream. CI has this recipe in with its Christmas collection, but there was no way I could wait until December to make this dish. No. Way.
If you like cream and you like Brussels sprouts, you’ll love this recipe. But be warned: there’s lots of cream. That’s not a problem for me, but some of you may have significant others who are trying to lose weight and who complain that the vegetables you serve them are swimming in heavy cream. Ahem.
I followed the recipe exactly but, at the end, I topped it with a little something extra: a golden breadcrumb crust. Delicious! The golden crust is why I’m calling this a gratin, but, really, a traditional gratin is cooked in a béchamel or cheese sauce. You could certainly do that if you wanted to, but simmering the sprouts in cream is so fast and simple. The online version of this recipe requires you to have a subscription to CI, but if you don’t, don’t despair. I’m including the recipe below.
Adapted from Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream
1 pound fresh small Brussels sprouts, rinsed, with stem ends and discolored leaves removed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Ground black pepper
2 slices white bread, quartered
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Bring sprouts, cream, and salt to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until a knife tip inserted into a sprout center meets no resistance, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in nutmeg and pepper.
Distribute sprouts between two individual gratin or baking dishes. Pulse bread slices in food processor to form fine crumbs, then toss crumbs with melted butter. Top dishes evenly with breadcrumb mixture, then set under broiler until topping is crunchy and golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Remove from oven. Baking dishes will be very hot, so allow to cool before serving.