Few things make a dish sound fancier than the addition of some kind of sauce.
With the exception those for pasta, sauces are generally considered the domain of restaurant chefs with their balsamic reductions, sherry creams, and bechamels. But there are plenty of easy sauces, and they are a great option when you are trying to do a “nicer” dinner. They just make a dish seem more impressive.
Which sounds better:
Green beans or green beans in miso-soy dressing?
Pork chops or pork chops with garlic-wine reduction?
Brussels sprouts or Brussels sprouts with mustard glaze?
Avec sauce pour moi, s’il vous plait!
And most sauces aren’t especially difficult. They’re just an extra step requiring a few additional minutes and ingredients, often less. To get started, try these Brussels sprouts with mustard glaze, which take almost no extra time to prepare, require one extra ingredient, and seem so much classier than their unadorned cousins.
Oh, the Brussels sprout. How did you become our most despised vegetable? It could be that they grow like this:
First, I think that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. What kid is going to have an open mind about sprouts when they are represented in popular entertainment as the paragon of grossness? I think I’d serve them to kids under a code name like “tasty spheres” or “midget cabbage.” OK, maybe not those, but you get my point. No kid is going to want to eat a vegetable that regularly induces retching in beloved TV characters, and the tastes we form as kids tend to follow us into adulthood.
Second, they’re often served unseasoned and boiled to death, which is a real shame, because well-treated Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetable of all time. Cooked with a little fat and allowed to brown and caramelize, Brussels sprouts are candy-sweet and highly addictive.
Finally, as we age, the extremes of our taste buds tend to mellow. Brussels sprouts do have an edge of bitterness to them. Many kids tend not to like strongly-flavored foods because they’re just not very adventurous eaters, but these foods also taste more strongly-flavored to younger palates. Plus the bitterness in sprouts is exaggerated by many common cooking methods. So, if you’re saying to yourself, “I wasn’t tricked by marketing, I just hate the taste,” I urge you to try them again. I have a standing challenge to sproutaphobes to try mine and still claim not to like them, and while I’ve only had about three takers, I’m batting a thousand.
The trick is to stay away from solely water-based cooking methods and make sure to brown and caramelize the sprouts to bring out their sweetness. Roasting is great for this, but I sautéed these sprouts, which would have been delicious even without the not-actually-very-fancy fancifying sauce.
Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Glaze
1 pound Brussels Sprouts
4-8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1. Cut the sprouts in half and remove any sickly-looking outer leaves. Slice off any excess stem.
2. Steam or boil the sprouts for 3-5 minutes depending on size. I know, I know. I just said no water-based cooking methods, but starting the sprouts this way is fine and a good idea if you’re going to saute them. Pre-cooking them a little bit makes it a lot easier to cook them all the way through without burning the outside.
3. Melt about 2/3 of the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat, add the sprouts, and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the sprouts begin to brown.
4. Combine mustard and remaining butter in a bowl and microwave for about a minute until butter is melted and mustard is runny. Whisk with a fork just to combine. You can, of course, do this in a pan, but it’s pretty easy to cook the moisture off and end up with a burnt and sticky mess, so just be careful.
5. Add sauce to pan and toss to coat.
6. Serve, with or without airs of pretension.