How was your Thanksgiving? I hope you had a safe and special time with family and friends. Although I did cook a mini Thanksgiving dinner for our family the Sunday before the big day, I wasn’t taxed for the actual holiday, asked to bring an appetizer to our gathering. Having recently watched Ina’s newest show on Food Network where she cooked one of the apps from her latest cookbook, Kielbasa with Mustard Sauce I decided to go with that and it was very well received. I used turkey Kielbasa, but you could pair it with almost any type of sausage and the mustard sauce itself is so versatile and would be delicious as a condiment with meat or chicken or as a dip for pretzel sticks.
Since it’s no surprise how much I enjoy Ina, I was intrigued when she mentioned on her Instagram that she was a guest on a new podcast by weatherman extraordinare, Al Roker from The Today Show. Now, I’m not the best at listening to podcasts because I am such a visual person but for some reason if they are in a question and answer format and both the interviewer and the guest are intriguing then I can pay attention most of the time! So, I decided to give Al’s podcast a whirl and his episode with Ina was fun (she always is having fun isn’t she?).
The name of the podcast is Cooking Up a Storm and the premise is that Al is cooking Thanksgiving dishes with some of his famous friends. Ina’s contribution to the table were her Parmesan Smashed Potatoes which, interestingly enough, is a recipe from her very first cookbook that I clearly overlooked. They were on my table not too long after I listed to the podcast, served to guests and they were so delicious owing to the butter, cream and sour cream but it’s the holidays so… It’s funny how a simple recipe can pass you by and reminds me to go back to some of my favorite cookbooks and explore more dishes.
The success of any podcast or tv show about food depends on the host’s ability to convey the aroma, flavor and texture of the food since you are neither smelling or tasting anything! Also, tips on execution are important since it’s often the little steps that makes a recipe successful. With a podcast, these elements are particularly important since you are only listening and I have to say Al is a good host and the guests I’ve listened to so far are pros.
So as I was scrolling through the small list of episodes, I clicked on Episode 4 with Marcus Samuelsson who was preparing Caramelized Brussels Sprouts. If you don’t know Marcus, he is one of the happiest, most smiley chefs I’ve ever watched and he is really delightful. I have never been to his restaurants, most notable his first Red Rooster in Harlem, or prepared any of his recipes but thought he would be fun to listen to in the kitchen.
Now, I knew that Marcus was from Sweden but what I didn’t know was that he was born in Ethiopia and at the age of 1 his mother, sister and he went to the hospital with Tuburculosis and only his sister and he survived. A kind nurse took them under her care who thought to help them escape the turmoil in Ethiopia at the time by connecting them with a Swedish adoption agency. Born Kassahun Joar Tsegie, Marcus and his sister Linda (born Fantaye) were adopted by Anne-Marie and Lennart Samuelsson and the rest is history. Marcus was inspired to cook by his maternal grandmother but his style incorporates influences not only of Sweden, his homeland of Ethiopia where his father still resides, and his adopted home of New York City.
On the podcast, Marcus was preparing Caramelized Brussels Sprouts but not just any old way. His variation uses a spice called Berbere that believe it or not, I had in my pantry as I had wanted to try another recipe (never did) using the spice mix and purchased it on Amazon (similar here). According to Marcus, Berbere is the spice mix essential to Ethiopian cooking and is used to flavor all kinds of dishes. It is a combination of spices including paprika, cayenne, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, garlic, onion, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and salt – phew! It’s like a curry mix of sorts and I’m sure they vary in levels of heat. The brand I purchased was very mild.
As I was listening I thought – bingo, a use for the spice I have never used! He began by tossing the sprouts and some sliced garlic with olive oil, the Berbere spice, some finely chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. The sprouts were roasted at a high temperature. In the meanwhile, you prepared a dressing that used some sliced shallot, chopped unsalted peanuts for texture, sherry vinegar and maple syrup. With his mention of sherry vinegar, one of my favorites, I knew this was a recipe I was meant to make!
Toss the warm sprouts with the dressing, adding some chopped fresh parsley and pomegranate seeds before plating. Really easy to execute and very pretty to look at, especially during the holidays…
It might look like lots of other brussels sprouts recipes but I promise you the flavor here is really unique. A little smokey and spicy from the Berbere, sweet from the maple syrup, tangy from the sherry vinegar and earthy from the rosemary. The pomegranate seeds provide a little citrusy note and texture, along with the chopped peanuts. You could swap out other nuts if you wanted.
I’ve made this twice, for dinner with my family enjoyed by all and next for the blog and I have to say the second time was better for a few reasons. First, I lowered the oven temperature to 425 from 450 recommended so the sprouts wouldn’t get too charred. And second, I used larger sprouts. The first time I found sprouts in netting that were pretty small. This time, I was at a market where I picked the sprouts myself from a pile and they were all on the larger size which I think makes a nicer presentation yet they are still easy to eat in one bite. For really large sprouts, I cut them in 3 pieces but most could just be halved.
Is it a side dish, yes. Could it be swapped out for a salad? Kind of. It has similar elements, minus the lettuce in my opinion. Should you try it? Definitely and I hope you will for one of your celebrations this season.
I am hoping to be back next week with a recipe for apres-dinner and then the following week with a cocktail/mocktail situation, stay tuned!
Until next time…