I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for . . . Brussels Sprouts! "Screaming Heads": A Recipe for a Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Brussels sprouts must be like cilantro: People either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Me? I was somewhere in between until I started cooking them myself. We had them at home often growing up, but they were in the frozen boxes and seemed a little mushy to me; maybe we just cooked them too long, or with too much water. A little bacon and butter easily cured that problem, though. (My sister loved the “baby cabbage heads,” but she also liked the canned LaChoy Chinese dinners we had back then, too, the only kind of Chinese food we had available to us in ancient times. After that experience, I was awestruck by what a real bean sprout looked – and tasted – like.)
But when I cooked fresh Brussels sprouts, I was hooked, too. They’re much more readily available these days and even though they’re billed as a “winter vegetable” you can get them year round. I snap them up every time I see them. They’re very easy to cook – steamed, microwaved, or roasted. They can be bitter, but if you trim them and cut an X through the bottom before cooking, you’ll reduce those chances.
And they’re very low in calories -- under 10 per head – high in fiber and all kinds of other good things. I did try growing them last year in my own vegetable garden and they were very good – just didn’t really yield enough to make it worthwhile to repeat. Best just to buy at Davey’s Fruit & Vegetable stand.
But they’re not a very healthy food in this recipe. If there was a Richter scale for rich, creamy, cheesy dishes, this would shake you off the charts. It almost, but not quite, covers the unique flavor and texture of the sprouts. Aside from roasting* this is my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. Reserved for special, indulgent occasions only!
Ready for the calorie truck?
Screaming Heads: Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Adapted from The Cookworks, 2003
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
4 ounces prosciutto, julienned
2 T unsalted butter
1 recipe, Roasted Garlic**
3 T all purpose flour
½ C heavy cream
1 C half-and-half
¼ cup sherry
1 C finely grated Parmesan, plus ½ cup
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 t kosher salt
½ t freshly grated black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare Brussels sprouts: Trim the stem to make it flush. Quarter each sprout and score the stem on each quarter with a ¼ inch deep “X.”
Score the prosciutto in the butter and stir continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and Brussels sprouts and continue stirring 2 minutes. Add the cream, half-and-half and the sherry. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then reduce the heat and continue simmering for 7 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by 1/3. Stir in 1 cup of the Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole and cover with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for about 25 minutes.
1 garlic head
½ teaspoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut of papery tip of the head, exposing top of each garlic clove. Brush the exposed garlic with olive oil. Place the garlic, root side down on a piece of foil. Bundle the garlic with the foil, leaving a small vent o top. Roast the garlic for 45 minutes or until the cloves turn beige and are fork tender. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the garlic head upside down over a small bowl and the cloves will pop out. Will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
* I bet that the recipe would be definitely simpler and at least as tasty – if not better – if you roasted the Brussels sprouts – as pictured above -- separately, then made the sauce and then baked them together.