“We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday school – but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.”-Dave Barry
When overcooked, as many of our mother’s Brussels sprouts were, admit it, transformed from bright bundles of green joy into bitter, gray blobs of unhappiness. Many unfortunate children have been forever scarred after the torture of being forced to eat this slimy, pungent vegetable that resembles mini Audrey II’s from the Little Shop of Horrors. Quite often, this phobia lasts well into adulthood and poor, traumatized individuals spend their whole lives without ever tasting another sprout again.
Take heart for there is no need for sufferers to live in such terror for even one more day, because I am here to tell you, Brussels sprouts can be one of the most delicious and complex vegetables you have ever had the pleasure of tasting. You just need to suspend the unjust prejudice you’ve felt for this misunderstood cabbage, close your eyes, open your mouth, and take a bite…
Picture this in your mind’s eye…a large handful of fresh, bright green Brussels sprouts split in half, deep fried in a flash, then cooled a little before being tossed with a creamy sauce gribeche, softly poached egg, a squeeze of lime, crumbled Pecorino Romano cheese and topped with slices of crisp, Serrano ham. Can you taste the delectable combination of salty and sweet? Crispy, salty ham with sweet, yes I said sweet, Brussels sprouts? If you can’t, or if you desperately want to, you can find this dish at Oak, the wine bar in the Riverbend with a menu of tasty tapas-style bites created by chef Aaron Burgau.
Chef Anthony Scanio at Emeril’s Delmonico offers several savory sides on his dinner menu, dishes like Sherried Mushrooms with piquillo peppers and roasted garlic, Baked Macaroni & Cheese with fontina and parmesan and Rum Glazed Yams with candied pecans. But your childhood sprout nightmares will disappear into haze of bliss when you try their Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with spicy pancetta, fresh cherry tomatoes, manchego cheese and earthy toasted almonds. Be sure to call ahead and make reservations for dinner (and now Fridays for lunch) at the St. Charles Avenue restaurant, before all the other sprout enthusiasts beat you to the punch.
On the other side of town in Mid-City, Chef Ray Gruezke offers a slightly simpler take on the sumptuous sprout. Amidst a wealth of hearty dishes like a Double Cut Pork Chop with Jack Daniels and roasted corn “coush coush” or Roasted Veal Marrow Bones with caramelized onions and chipotle salsa verde, Rue 127 offers a few fabulous sides, one of which happens to be beautiful Brussels sprouts cooked in duck fat and sherry vinegar. After a dish like that you won’t need to indulge in the Deep Fried Cupcakes, but why be stingy?
Keeping it simple and scrumptious also seems to be the general plan at the Warehouse District restaurant La Boca. Chef Adolfo Garcia takes great pride in his Argentinian steak house, serving New York Strip, “Cowboy” cut Bone-in Ribeye, and Certified Angus T-Bone, and he doesn’t skimp on his sides. Fresh, bright Brussels Sprouts are flash fried and brought to the table in all their green, pristine glory.
Another Warehouse District eatery on Annunciation Street dubbed, well…Annunciation is turning heads and making mouths water featuring classic New Orleans cuisine, both Cajun and Creole. Co-owner and chef Steven Manning worked at the Uptown neighborhood favorite Clancy’s for over 20 years and has brought his experience and technique to offer dishes like Veal Sweetbreads Valentine, Lobster & Mushroom Risotto and Spaghetti Bordelaise with fried oysters. But, among other sides like Broccoli Rabe with garlic and olive oil, you should definitely try his Hash-browned Brussels Sprouts that are so crispy and delicious, you’ll doubt they’re greens at all.
Finally, it’s a bit of a reach, but any excuse to go to Domenica in the Roosevelt Hotel has got to be taken into consideration. Chef Alon Shaya is constantly wooing diners with incredible, house-cured charcuterie and hand-made pastas, but the CBD restaurant’s biggest claim to fame would have to be the pizza. Among the Quattro Formaggi and Gorgonzola, you shouldn’t miss the Roasted Carrot “pizze” with goat cheese, red onion, Brussels Sprouts, beets and hazelnuts. Your relationship with the “dreaded” sprout will never be the same.
*Article originally published in the January 2014 issue of Where Y’at Magazine
*Rue 127 is closed