It is easy to overlook the meager Brussels sprouts for the more traditionally appealing pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes. Those are not difficult to win over fans – wrapped in a flaky crust, layered with spice, whipped with butter and cream – it’s no wonder those dishes get the fame. But today I’m here as an advocate for the tender sprout.
Last year I attempted to woo sprout followers with a dish of charred Brussels sprouts made sweet by an extended stay in a hot oven. Combined with creamy white beans and sharp pecorino it was an easy sell.
This year I’m going raw which may prove a more difficult challenge. But, for me this salad is perfect for the traditionally hefty Thanksgiving meal. Sitting next to a mound of mashed potatoes with a near lake of gravy this bright salad softens its neighbor’s richness. And while taking up prime real estate on your holiday plate you may possibly feel more entitled to a slightly larger piece of pie.
But more important than that this salad stands alone as a great dish. I’ve taught it in a class, made it for friends, told many about its sour, slightly sweet and fresh taste and have had it for lunch and dinner on many occasions. (Never for breakfast but now that I think about it with a fried egg it would make for a mighty way to start the day).
Frilly tendrils of sprouts soften under a tart vinaigrette while pungent red onions and pecorino add richness and the marks the bite as a memorable one. If you feel so inclined a few walnuts tossed in or maybe even toasted breadcrumbs would be a nice addition. But in its simplicity there is greatness.
Brussels Sprout Salad with Red Onion and Pecorino
A microplane makes the shaving of these little vegetables a quick and simple task but I realize many are fearful of the ridiculously sharp blade of those machines. If that’s the case a sharp knife does the job well. The red onions spend some time soaking in the vinaigrette, softening their pungency and giving them a quick pickle (thanks for this tip, Rachel). The vinaigrette can be made several days in advance and the red onions can bathe in the dressing for a day in advance leaving only the combining of a few ingredients to be done right before dinner.
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups Brussels sprouts (use larger sprouts if possible)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Add the sliced onions and set aside.
Trim all of the brussels sprouts, cutting off any bruised outer leaves and slicing off a good portion of the hard root end. Using a mandoline, shave the sprouts one at a time. When you’re done, use your fingers to gently separate the leaves so that the shredded sprouts resemble a very fine slaw.
Put the sprouts in a serving bowl and toss gently with the onions and the dressing. Fold in the pecorino, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Finish with a bit more pecorino on top then serve immediately.