A lot of people claim they do not like Brussels spouts because they are bitter; that may very well be true. Brussels sprouts do contain a compound some perceive as bitter because of genetics – much like the asparagus, cilantro, arugula, and others. Another reason some taste bitterness in Brussels sprouts is because of the preparation – they are boiled or steamed.
It turns out the bitter compounds in Brussels sprouts are broken down when cooked at a much higher heat than boiling or steaming can achieve. Roasting at temperatures above 375°F will give you that result. Roasting will also cause caramelization which creates some sweetness and helps balance any remaining bitter notes.
But really – Brussels sprouts and bacon? Not much else to say here except “More please!”
Bacon Weaved Brussels Sprouts
8 slices thick cut bacon
32 Brussels sprouts of similar size
Fresh ground black pepper
8 wooden or metal skewers (See note)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Cook the bacon in a large cast iron skillet until it shows just a hint of browning but is still soft and pliable. Overcooking the bacon will make it impossible to weave onto the skewer. Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside. Drain most of the bacon grease from the pan saving it for another use. A thin coating of bacon grease should remain in the pan.
Trim the brussels sprouts and remove the outermost leaves. Add the sprouts to the skillet, shake the skillet to lightly coat the sprouts, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until sprouts are beginning to brown or for about 15 to 20 minutes. You do not want to completely roast the sprouts at this time. They will be roasted further when skewered.
Assemble the skewers by threading 1 end of the bacon onto the end of a skewer. Add a sprout and weave the bacon around the sprout and back through the skewer. Add a second sprout and once again thread the bacon around and through the skewer. Repeat this until you have 4 or 5 sprouts on the skewer each time moving the bacon and the sprout down the skewer. Allow at least 1 inch of skewer to extend beyond the last sprout or end of bacon.
Arrange the skewers on a baking sheet and bake the skewers for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bacon is fully cooked.
Note: I prefer to use wooden skewers. Wooden skewers will need to be soaked for several hours to help prevent them from burning. Covering the exposed wood with foil will also help prevent them from burning. Another reason to soak the skewers is to help with skewering the food and to help the food slide off after it is cooked.
I love oysters. I love the salty brininess they bring to food so much that I will order them almost every time I see them on a menu except during the summer months. Yes, I follow the “R” rule and only eat oysters during months containing the letter “R.” I am told this rule no longer applies but old habits die hard.
Oysters also remind me of Christmas and my father. One family tradition while growing up was to have oyster stew on Christmas Eve after coming home from Mass and prior to opening presents. A week later, I would tag along with my father on New Year’s Day when he would go up town to the local taverns to eat raw oysters. It is because of this that I often times associate oysters with the holidays.
The following recipe is a bit of twist on the classic hors d’oeuvre Angels on Horseback. Angels on Horseback are simply shucked oysters wrapped in bacon, skewered and then baked in an oven or grilled. They are often times served on toast.
In my revision of the classic hors d’oeuvre, I first fry the bacon crisp and then use the same pan to sauté the oysters in butter, white wine, and the liquor from the oysters along with scallions and garlic. I then serve them on toast points.
Here is what I do:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
Baguette cut on the bias into 1″ thick slices
10 Slices bacon cut into thirds
3 Scallions, finely chopped
¼ Cup white wine
2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
8 to 12 oysters, shucked, with juices reserved or ½ pint shucked oysters
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Roughly chopped parsley for garnish
Heat oven to 400° F. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in microwavable bowl. Brush baguette slices with the butter and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted then set aside.
While baguette is toasting, cook bacon in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Transfer bacon plate lined with paper towels to drain and set aside. Drain bacon grease from pan but do not wipe pan. (Bacon grease can be used for another use.) Melt remaining butter in the skillet and then add the garlic and scallions. Cook garlic and scallions until soft; about 3 minutes. Add wine, lemon juice, and oysters with their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Cook about three minutes until oysters begin to curl at the edges. Using a slotted spoon, transfer oysters to a bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Continue to cook sauce until thickened and reduced by half. Spoon sauce, dividing evenly, over toast points. Top each point with an oyster and two or three reserved bacon pieces. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
I am always looking for great appetizers that are easy and crowd pleasing. This recipe for candied bacon fits the bill. Make sure you use a thick-cut, good quality bacon and real 100% maple syrup. Do not use pancake syrup which is maple flavored, high fructose corn syrup.
As I said, this recipe is so easy. It only take about five minutes of prep time and 30 to 45 minutes of cook time.
1 pound good quality bacon, sliced
2 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup (Do not use pancake syrup.)
¼ Cup brown sugar
2 Teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat your oven to 350° F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack. Mix the maple syrup, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add the bacon to the bowl and toss gently with your hands making sure that all of the slices are evenly coated. Place the bacon in a single layer onto the wire rack. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes. The bacon will be a bit brown, but will most likely need to bake for another 10-20 minutes depending on thickness. It should look slightly dark and crispy but not burnt. If you take it out too soon, the texture will be chewy. Patience is certainly a virtue with this.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the rack. Don’t let them sit too long or else they will stick. Once cool enough to handle, you can break the bacon into chards or cut roughly into thirds. You’ll have about 30 pieces. You can leave them whole if you would like.
I am always on the lookout for quick, easy appetizers. Here is a great one for your fall parties and tailgating. The sweetness of the mini peppers balances the tanginess of the chèvre, and the herbs help kick things up to a level your guests will enjoy.
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
20 to 25 mini bell peppers, washed
10 ounces goat cheese, softened
4 ounces cream cheeses, softened
2-3 tablespoons of your choice of herbs such as chives and thyme, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add panko bread crumbs and sauté until crumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Slice peppers in half lengthwise. Do not remove stems. The stems are simply for presentation. Remove seeds and place in large bowl. Drizzle remaining olive oil over peppers and toss to coat the peppers. Then arrange peppers on a baking sheet and set aside.
Mix goat cheese, cream cheese, herbs, and pepper with a fork in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Spoon or pipe the cheese mixture into the pepper halfs. Sprinkle toasted panko bread crumbs evenly over peppers. Bake peppers for approximately fifteen minutes or until peppers are tender and the goat cheese is warm. An additional two to three minutes under the broiler may be needed to give the panko topping a little extra browning and to help heat the cheese.