Monday, November 8, 2010

Brussels Sprouts in Béchamel Sauce--a Taste from the Childhood Garden

When I saw stalks of Brussels sprouts at my local food store, all my childhood memories came back to me at once. Brussels sprouts, with their very intriguing way of growing, for some mysterious reason, were the only vegetable thriving in my parents' garden. We tried to grow absolutely every vegetable that was known in Poland at that time, but the only vegetable that ended up being impressive were the Brussels sprouts. To my deep disappointment, we never managed to see various lettuces we planted to turn into lettuce heads. And I did not know at that time that a baby salad mix was considered more desirable in the culinary world than a lettuce head and cherry tomatoes were more sweet than those on the vine. I guess we considered their size rather than their taste as the proof of quality.

While being famous for the love of cabbage, we have never befriended Brussels sprouts. You can spot them occasionally on a Polish table, served with buttered bread crumbs, but compared to other cuisines, their presence in our culinary tradition was timid to say the least. Therefore, when I think Brussels sprouts I feel completely free to choose how to make them. From various experiments I have conducted with Brussels sprouts, I concluded that they tasted best when baked in béchamel sauce.

Brussels Sprouts in Béchamel Sauce

2 lb Brussels sprouts,
2 tbsp butter,
2 tbsp white flour,
2 cups milk at room temperature,
1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese,
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook Brussels sprouts in salted water for 5-10 minutes. Drain.
2. Heat the oven to 375F.
3. To make béchamel sauce melt butter in a saucepan, over a medium heat.
4. Add flour and using a whisker mix until the sauce becomes smooth.
5. Pour in at first 1/2 cup milk whisking continuously. Add the remainig milk gradually, and let the sauce simmer on a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent it from burning.
6. Take the saucepan off the heat, add nutmeg, salt,pepper and Fontina cheese.
7. Place Brussels sprouts in oven proof dish and cover with the sauce.
8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the sauce starts bubbling and becomes dark gold.

Serve with a tomato salad and white bread.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I grew up with British parents, so boiled Brussel sprouts are my friends. This looks intriguing, though. How cooked-through are they at the end? Soft and tender, or more al dente? I like mine unfashionably well-done, I'm afraid!