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Much Maligned - Tips and Tricks


#1

Inspired by a discussion by @Boydesian and @MinuteWalt that went along the lines “Brussel sprouts are foul devil food” and “No, you cooking them wrong” (apologies for the paraphrasing), it struck me that there’s plenty of maligned food because it generally gets cooked poorly.

Take the humble sprout. It’s indifferent at best when boiled to a slow death. But steamed lovingly over water with a star anise added makes it fantastically tasty (also works for kale and broccoli too).

Anyone else got cooking tips and tricks to make the otherwise unpalatable food more delicious?


#2

I just want to clarify here that I do not think that Brussels sprouts are “foul devil food”. That would be too cruel to the Devil. Sprouts are chilling evidence of an unseen and malevolent influence that, I can only hope does not entirely, permeate the Universe.

Although, they’re actually pretty tasty when roasted and served with bacon.


#3

Sea buckthorn.

Maybe 10 years ago, this tiny orange berry became popular with the foraging, bushcraft types. It was in theory, edible - it was in theory, loaded with vitamins and minerals, it grows abundantly on vast stretches of coast. They set it as a tough strap of leathery jelly, and chew it as they hike. (I have tried this… nope nope nope nope nope nope nope. The secret is to use so much other fruit, the flavour is completely drowned out).

Eventually, chefs got to hear about this food, and it started to creep onto the menu’s of the trendiest resturants, alongside the crab-apple icecreams and Sloe-crumbles.

There was one problem though, no-one could make it taste nice. Never underestimate the foodies desire to try something new (And to my shame, I have ordered it three times… nope nope nope nope nope nope no no no no never again), it was very popular. Around this time, there was a reality cooking show on tv called Great British Menu, in which top end chefs - we’re talking at the level of the guy who runs Claridges for Gorden Ramsey while he’s shouting at people on camera - compete to cook a course in a really high end, prestigeous banquet. It’s judged by a couple of food journalists, but more significantly, a lady by the name of Prue Leith - of Leiths cookery school - one of the most respected schools in Europe.

Year after year, hopeful, often michelin starred chefs would serve her Sea Buckthorn, to be ejected from the competition thanks to a terrible score for their dessert, accompanied by a look of revulsion from all three judges, and threats that if anyone ever served them that disgusting fruit again, there would be hell to pay.

Until, one year, one very talented chef by the name of Nathan Outlaw presented his take on Sea Buckthorn - a curd flavoured with it’s juice.

The verdict…

“It’s a lovely merangue, shame about that ghastly curd. What flavour is it?”
“Sea Buckthorn, I believe.”
“Oh, well, it’s the most edible take on it we’ve had yet”.
“I agree, it’s almost completely devoid of that… peculiar flavour”
“Yes but if he thinks he’s serving it at the banquet, well, he needs to go home and have a jolly good look at himself in the mirror”.

So there you have it - the most tolerable way to eat buckthorn is to have a 2 michelin starred chef make it into a curd, which increases it’s edibility to “ghastly”.


#4

@Scribbs @Boydesian High heat, short cooking time. Toss them in a little olive oil, fresh crushed garlic, and cracked pepper (or even better, chili flakes!) and a little salt, then toss them onto the hottest grill you can find. Or roast them in a very hot oven. Or even sauté them. Getting a little bit of char on the outside caramelizes the sugars without making the thing into a gross, sloppy mess of tiny-cabbage-goo, and retaining a bit of crunch and bite, while still being completely cooked.

Simple. Easy. Fast. Good.

[Edit, 2 days later than the rest, sorry: pull off outer less appetizing leaves and cut most, but not all, of the stem off, because you’re going cut them in half (to get those fractal-y patterns inside to get a nice and pretty sear, and it helps get the dressing inside of each sprout), and a bit of stem keeps the leaves together. Optional but recommended.]

@SleepyWill It sounds like an even grosser food than quinoa, also allegedly very healthy, which I’ve tried to make taste good, but it’s blandness cuts through everything. It sounds like buckthorn is more proactively trying to be gross, though.


#5

Spinach - cook in a dry frying pan on a high heat in small batches (you can put each batch aside in a bowl, it takes such a small amount of time to cook it that it will stay hot). Add salt and pepper to taste and a little nutmeg, the secret ingredient. Once you have cooked it down from the prodigiously bulging bag of leaves into the tiny and dissatisfying green mass remaining ensure that all excess liquid has been removed. I squeeze it with a spoon in a colander… Actually that’s a lie, I usually make spinach for my wife and I so I just use my hands, but you probably shouldn’t do that for anyone except those closest to you/those that already has all your diseases. If you prefer you can return it all to the pan to boil off the liquid, whichever. Then, and this is very important, open your kitchen bin (or any bin, the nature of the bin isn’t really the key factor) and scrape all the spinach into it. Eat a pear and rejoice that what would have been spinach now tastes of pear. Rejoice further when you realise that the liquid dribbling from it also tastes of pear instead of tasting like something used to scrub an ent’s underarms. Et voila, perfect spinach.


#6

And here I just buy a bag of spinach leaves, add salad dressing, and eat it that way. Tastes delicious to mediocre, depending on the dressing used.


#7

In the spirit, if not the letter of this post:
Having trouble with your tuna? Try encasing it in jello!


#8

That is outstanding. Horrific, but outstanding. I don’t know whether the tuna in jello or the banana and bacon hollandaise are the best (worst?) on the list. The liver shaped into a pineapple is glorious.


#9

I can see the banana candle having a modern audience…


#10

Amy Sedaris brought back the “candle salad” in 2012 as a joke and it’s stuck around :wink:


#11

Fucking Brussels Sprouts, beeeoitches. This is how we do it downtown!

I finished it with some very coarse sea salt, just a pinch. The charred bits were crispy and sweet but each one had crunch and bite.

I actually ate the whole batch myself and didn’t share with anyone. I’m a horrid little man.


#12

Every year someone tries to convince me Brussels taste nice with a new way of cooking them. No no and thrice no!


#13

One of my contributions to a potluck Thanksgiving was roasted brussels sprouts with a honey sriracha glaze. My coworker said it was the first time he ever enjoyed eating brussels sprouts. First time I ever cooked them too.


#14

I might enjoy those because they’ll taste of siracha NOT Brussels!


#15

Quite. I’ve never tasted sriracha complementing a meal, as much as bludgeoning it into submission.


#16

Roasting Brussel Sprouts is, in my humble opinion, the only way to go. It keeps them crunchy, with a bit of smokiness, and avoids all of the soggy bitterness that is boiled brussels. Kudos for taking it to the next level!


#17

In the River Cottage Handbook: Booze they make Sea Buckthorn Vodka. Supposed to be quite nice.


#18

Ooh Brussels. I love them. I’ve been known in the past to steam them, smother them in butter and a ton of black pepper and eat them on their own, from a bowl, with a spoon. In front of Band of Brothers. Don’t judge me!

Here are two other ways I like eating the tastiest brassica. I don’t weigh food much when I cook veg dishes, so all measurements are approximate.

Take a generous double handful of sprouts, peel and shred them (slice lengthways). Get an onion and chop it really finely. Get a clove of garlic and the same size piece of ginger, and chop really finely, or grate if you can be bothered. Finally get some cumin seeds. Put a frying pan on medium heat, and melt some butter in it. Add the cumin seeds and fry until they pop, Add the onion and sweat. When they’re almost translucent add a teaspoon of garam masala and the garlic and ginger. If you like heat, add a chopped chilli of your choice. Next add the sprouts and cook. About a minute from when you think they’re done, add coconut milk and turn the heat up. You should add enough coconut milk not to make it like a sauce but to coat the sprouts only. At this stage add a little at a time until it gets the consistency you like. Remember, you can add, but you can’t take away. Season with salt and pepper and a twist of lemon at the end. Perfect as a side dish for a ricey curry.

Chop streaky, smoked bacon into little strips. Fry until crisp and remove from the pan. Add a sliced clove of garlic to the pan and fry until translucent - don’t colour it! Add halved sprouts and a bit of water to steam them (about 1/4 pint). When the water’s gone, add the bacon back in and season with salt and pepper. I usually eat this with roast beef, turkey or chicken.


#19

I’ve done the bacon thing, pretty much word-for-word with what you described, and that is a fantastic, easy way to make pure awesome.

I have not tried the other (curried sprouts?) I was having a hard time imagining it until I thought of some other similar dishes that use bok choy in much the same way, and that pretty much sold me. Yes. I can get behind that, 100%.