When it comes to steak, these Brussels sprouts are one of the best accompaniments around. Since a lot of folks aren't sure how to cook the sprouts, here's an easy, quick recipe that can be dressed up with a buttery, rich béarnaise sauce—or not. The key to great Brussels sprouts is to blanch them first until al dente and then cook them as instructed in a recipe. For these, the fat from pancetta adds incredible flavor. Of course, you can substitute bacon for the pancetta or, if need be, use just a little reserved bacon fat from another dish. But don't neglect the fat--a little goes a long way!
1 pound Brussels sprouts, each halved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
one-quarter pound thickly sliced pancetta, cut into one-quarter-inch dice
4 large shallots, quartered
Freshly ground black pepper
Bearnaise Sauce (below), optional
In a large pot, bring about 6 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and when the water returns to the boil, cook for about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sprouts from the pot and immediately plunge in a large bowl filled with ice and water. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, sauté the pancetta for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is slightly crisp and the fat is rendered. Stir in the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the Brussels sprouts and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts have a nice golden brown color. Divide the Brussels sprouts among 4 serving plates and serve, topped with warm béarnaise sauce.
Makes about 2 cups
In a small saucepan, bring the white wine, vinegar, and shallot to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook at a rapid simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until the liquid reduces by half. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the solids. In the top of a double boiler set a few inches over water or in a small saucepan or metal bowl set over a larger pan holding a few inches of water, whisk the egg yolks with the vinegar reduction. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and briskly whisk the sauce for 5 to 6 minutes, until the eggs begin to thicken. In a steady stream, drizzle the melted butter into the sauce, whisking continuously. Once the butter is incorporated and the sauce is smooth, stir in the lemon juice and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or keep warm over the double boiler filled with simmering water for up to 30 minutes, if necessary. Note Tarragon vinegar is easy to find in most supermarkets but if you want to make your own, start with fresh sprigs of tarragon and simmer them in white wine vinegar for about 10 minutes. Let the vinegar cool and then strain it into bottles with tight-fitting lids. Store the vinegar in a cool, dry cupboard for up to 3 months.
—From Steak with Friends: At Home, with Rick Tramonto by Rick Tramonto with Mary Goodbody/Andrews McMeel Publishing