On Monday we picked up the last of our summer CSA distributions. This is always a bittersweet time for me. Sweet because I am looking forward to winter veggies like carrots, turnips, and leeks. Bitter because this means that I won’t get to eat tasty, fresh tomatoes until next August!
As usual, we got a HUGE array of veggies (more than any family our size can rightfully eat in three weeks) including these guys:
I am little embarrassed to admit it, but I had no idea what brussel sprouts looked like when they were growing. I have only ever seen them in little plastic packages at the supermarket. I can’t believe how large the stalks are. Once the sprouts were removed, Marc had to use a cleaver to trim the stalks so they have any hope of composting in the next two years.
With my freshly trimmed sprouts in hand, I went looking for a way to cook them. Brussel sprouts are vegetables that do not usually make it into our typical cooking repertoire so some research was in order. I found a simple and interesting recipe in the Joy of Cooking and we decided to pair the sprouts with some country-style spare ribs we had in the freezer. The sprouts were cooked in garlic butter while the ribs were brined, browned, and then slowly braised in the oven with stock and vegetables. We then reduced the braising liquid to make a luscious sauce to top the ribs.
The result was (wicked) awesome. The sprouts were sweet and delicious – even our picky toddler ate hers. The spare ribs were the most tender and juicy I have ever had (I usually find them dry and somewhat tough). This is a must make.
Brussel Sprouts Cockaigne
Recipe minimally modified from The Joy of Cooking
12 Brussel Sprouts, rinsed, patted dry, and cut in half lengthwise
1 1/2 tbls butter
1 1/2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt, pepper, and freshly grated parmesan cheese
In a medium skillet (make sure you have a lid), warm the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the crushed garlic cloves and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Place the sprouts cut side down in the garlic butter mixture. Cover and cook over low heat until tender, 15-20 minutes.
Arrange the sprouts on a plate, drizzle with any remaining butter, and top with salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. Serves 2 as a side dish.
Braised Country-Style Spare Ribs
For the brine
3 quarts of water
1 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbls pickling spice
For the braise
1.25 lbs country-style pork spare ribs
2 tbls canola oil
1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 small red skinned potatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons dry Sherry (the real stuff, not the cooking stuff)
2 cups chicken stock (preferably home made… we used the stock we made from smoked chickens so the finished dish had a slightly smoky flavor)
To make the brine:
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil to ensure sugar and salt are thoroughly dissolved. Let cool completely and chill in the fridge. You can speed this part up by boiling only two quarts of water and add the final quart in the form of ice. Once cool, add the pork and let sit in the brine for about 6 hours. Do not let it go overnight or you will end up with very salty meat.
To make the braise:
Rinse and drain the pork and pat it dry, discarding the brine. Preheat your oven to 300F degrees. Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet (make sure it has a lid) over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the pork and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the pork and set aside. In the same pan, add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and tender, about 8-10 minutes.
Once the vegetables are cooked add the Sherry and cook for another minute or two, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the ribs (and all of their juices on the plate) back in the pan on top of the vegetables and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then cover the pan with foil, place the lid on, and put the whole thing into a 300F degree oven. Cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the ribs are very tender.
Remove the pan from the oven. Place the ribs on a plate and top with the vegetables (use a slotted spoon to get them out). Tightly cover with foil and let it rest. Meanwhile, boil the braising liquid over high heat until reduced to about 1/4 quarter of the original volume. The consistency should be similar to a thin gravy. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Because we brined the pork, we found that we didn’t need any additional salt.
Serve the pork topped with the vegetables and drizzled (or covered, depending on your preference) with the sauce. Given the amount of meat, this could probably serve four. However, Marc and I managed to eat all of it without too much trouble.