Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Parsley
Just as I have never understood the sheer hostility that a turkey can induce in people, nor do I have much time for the antipathy displayed toward the Brussels sprout. Again, the cause for complaint stems from overcooking. When a sprout is allowed to keep a bit of bite, it has a nutty freshness. It helps if the sprouts you’re cooking are relatively small: once they’ve reached the large, blowsy unfurling stage they can be harder to deal with satisfactorily. But there are ways: should you want an alternative to the recipe that follows, you could shred them by pushing them through the fine slicing disc of a processer then briefly stir-fry them with either some bacon or ginger, or indeed, crumbled chestnuts; this snappily overcomes their overblownness. The sprout recipe below is really only a slight detour from the traditional route. By all means, stick to the orthodox if you prefer by adding only buttery chestnuts to the Brussels sprouts, but what follows is now my own traditional way of cooking them. There is a lot of parsley, I know, but think of it as another vegetable ingredient rather than a garnish.
Obviously, if you can’t get your hands on pancetta, it’s fine to use bacon. Just scissor it up, and fry it in a little more oil than you need for the pancetta, before proceeding.
Much as I love these sprouts, I’d always hope for leftovers, not least because one of my favorite things in this book is the bubble and squeak on page 64. Otherwise, if you reheat with some vegetable or chicken stock (I prefer the latter, and the pancetta means you’ve already lost the vegetarian vote) and a handful of frozen peas, you can blitz or blend this into a sweet and comforting soup.
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
One Pot MealYes
Recipe Courseside dish, vegetable
Taste and Texturebuttery, nutty, salty
Type of Dishvegetable
- 10 cups/2lbs Brussels sprouts
- 8oz pancetta, rind removed, cut into ½ inch cubes (to give 1½ cups)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1½ cups/8oz vacuum-packed chestnuts
- ¼ cup Marsala
- Large bunch parsley, chopped to give about 1 cup
Trim the bottoms off each of the sprouts, cutting a cross into each as you go, or at least a slash. This may not be necessary, but I can’t not do it. Then tip them into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until tender but still retaining a bit of bite, about 5 minutes or so depending on size. Just spoon one out of the water and test (without burning your tongue and thus ruining the whole lunch for yourself) to be sure.
Meanwhile, in a pan large enough to take everything later (or just drain the sprouts and use their pan, once you’ve drained them), cook the pancetta cubes in the oil, with the rind for more salty fat rendering, until they’re bronzed and crisp, but not cooked to the point of having dried out.
Add the butter and the chestnuts and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, press on the chestnuts to break them up a little. When they’re warmed through, turn the heat up and throw in the Marsala, letting it bubble away, fusing with the pancetta fat and chestnutty butter to form a glorious savory syrup. Add the drained sprouts and turn well, sprinkling in half the parsley as you do so. Give a good grinding of pepper; you shouldn’t need salt, given the pancetta, but obviously taste to see. Decant to a warmed serving plate and sprinkle over the remaining chopped parsley.
2004 Nigella Lawson