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Fall Fest: Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

It’s time for Fall Fest again and this week we’re celebrating brassicas – a genus of plants that includes cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and more.  I chose to focus on brussels sprouts because they are currently available on the stalk and I think it’s fun to take home a giant, awkward stalk of brussels sprouts!

Up until a few years ago, I had never even seen brussels sprouts on the stalk.  I really hadn’t thought too much about how they grew – I guess I assumed they grew out of the ground like tiny little heads of cabbage.  Thinking about it now, that seems a little silly, but you have to admit that the way they grow on this crazy stalk is a little silly looking, too!

I’m a sucker for strange looking produce, and as long as they seem fresh, I can never resist buying a hefty club of brussels sprouts when I see them at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, the local supermarket, or a Farmer’s Market – yep, they’re sold pretty much everywhere around here during the fall.

Harvesting the sprouts from the stalk is much simpler than you might think.  Don’t make the mistake I did the first time I was presented with the challenge.  The sprouts don’t need to be cut off with a knife – it’s much easier (and safer) to snap them off with your fingers.  It takes no time at all and you’ll end up with a big bowl of beautiful, fresh brussels sprouts – my stalk yielded close to two pounds.  The sprouts will probably range in size from teeny tiny to very large, so if you’re cooking them whole, you might want to sort them according to size and start cooking the larger ones first.  If you’re going to shred them like I did, size doesn’t matter.

I had this great plan for my brussels sprouts – I wanted to cook them with shredded apple and onion in a bit of bacon fat then toss in some cider vinegar, chopped walnuts, and blue cheese.  I had been dreaming about it all day.  But when the time came to actually make the dish, I realized I was out of both apples and blue cheese!  Oh well, at least I had some good bacon and a bag full of fresh walnuts from my uncle’s ranch.  I simplified the recipe in my head and continued.

I rinsed the sprouts, trimmed the bottoms, and removed any ugly outer leaves (there weren’t many – these were a gorgeous bunch of brussels sprouts).  I briefly thought about slicing them by hand but laziness took over and I decided to send them through the slicing blade of my food processor instead.  The Cuisinart accomplished the task in about a minute.

Since the walnuts were still in the shell, I got out the hammer and cracked enough to equal about half a cup (plus enough to snack on while cooking).  If you’ve never had good, fresh walnuts, you really need to find some.  The flavor is amazing – rich and sweet with absolutely no bitterness.  If you don’t have a nutcracker, no problem, it’s simple to open them with a hammer.  Just hold the nut on a hard surface with the pointed tip facing up and hit the top with the hammer (not too hard) until it cracks open. It will split in half or into four pieces and you can pick the walnuts out with your fingers (or a fork if they’re being stubborn).

I toasted the walnuts at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes before chopping and adding to the sprouts.  I also ended up adding some sugar to the cider vinegar dressing since I didn’t have apples to provide the sweetness I was looking for.  I added a drizzle of walnut oil since I had some handy, but you could use a neutral-flavored oil or even a splash of apple cider to cut the vinegar in the dressing.  I loved the simple combination of  brussels sprouts, bacon, and walnuts and didn’t even miss the extra ingredients I had planned on using.  But I’m still going to try it with apples and blue cheese next time!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon walnut oil (or oil of your choice, or apple cider)
4 slices thick cut bacon
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded (I used shredding blade on my food processor)
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, and oil; set aside.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon, cut or crumble into pieces, and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of drippings in pan (if there aren’t enough drippings to equal 2 tbsp, add a little butter or oil).  Heat drippings over medium-high then add shredded brussels sprouts.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just tender.  Remove from heat and stir in bacon, walnuts, and dressing.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.  Serves 4.

More Brassicas from the Fall Fest Gang:

How You Can Join Fall Fest 2010

Welcome to Fall Fest! Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? You can contribute to our online recipe swap in various ways, big or small.

Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Fall Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.

The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the Fall Fest 2010 pumpkin badge (illustrated by Matt of Matt Bites).

Summer/Fall Fest 2010 Posting Schedule

7/28: Cukes and Zukes
8/4: Corn
8/11: Herbs, Greens, and Beans
8/18: Stone Fruit – I missed this one!
8/25: Tomatoes
9/1: Sweet and Spicy Peppers
9/8: Garlic
9/15: White (or colorful “white”…but not sweet) Potatoes
9/22: Spinach
9/29: Apples
10/6: Fall Salads
10/13: Pumpkin + Winter Squash – I missed this one!
10/20: Pears
10/27: “Mad Stash” (as in what you’re shoving in freezer/jars/dehydrator, etc.)
11/3: Root veggies
11/10: Brassicas: incl. Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage or other
11/17: Sweet Potatoes