I noticed pink blossoms on a tree outside the Green Lake library last week. There are daffodils in my front yard preparing to show off. My garlic is poking out, taunting me with thoughts of garlic scape pesto. In the next few weeks I’ll be planting rhubarb and a few berry bushes. I’m itching to garden, anxious for asparagus and peas. When our CSAs start up again, I will get on my knees and kiss those boxes filled with goodness.
As one season merges into the next I find myself anticipating the upcoming flavors while simultaneously desiring to cook the current seasonal favorites one last time. I don’t want winter to end without another taste of my favorite winter squash dish, hearty soup, and savory pie. And more Brussels sprouts! What?! Yes, even more Brussels sprouts. Before spring comes.
The boys have these feelings about seasonal play, not food. Snow rarely falls in Seattle and the quality and quantity is usually not sufficient for sledding. After a measly snow last December, Harry and I had to promise them we’d take them to the mountains if we didn’t get to sled in the city this winter. So, yesterday morning when we woke up with the potential for hours ahead of sledding and snow play, I felt like we hit the winter jackpot. I also already knew what I’d be cooking for lunch.
Are you a Brussels sprouts fan? Since so many of my generation were raised with steamed vegetables lacking salt or butter, courtesy of 1980s nutrition fads, we learned to hate them. The majority of vegetables are done a serious disservice by steaming, but I think the sprouts suffer the greatest. They turn into little balls of soggy mush and even smell off-putting. Like asparagus pee. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, eat some asparagus this spring. I guess you’d also have to steam some Brussels sprouts, so maybe just trust me on this.
I turned my nose up at the sprouts of Brussels until I tasted them sauteed with bacon four years ago. (I highly recommend bacon as a gateway food.) I have since consumed them roasted and sauteed (often), fried (once- holy cow!), and raw (several times, sliced for salads). So, I guess I now enjoy them in all forms, except steamed. As long as they are served with a little fat, salt and acid, I eat them quite happily. I even find myself choosing them at restaurants.
Today’s dish is modeled off wood-fired Brussels sprouts we devoured at Essex a few weeks ago. Harry was sold because sriracha was involved. I was sold because aged gouda was present. If I see aged gouda anywhere, I want it. One bite of that salty, melt in your mouth cheese immediately transports me to my year as an exchange student in The Netherlands. I ate cheese daily, so I became quite familiar with the varieties available. One afternoon one of my hosts sat me at a table covered with various Dutch cheeses and we proceeded to sample the varieties while she told me about them. That’s an experience I wouldn’t mind repeating. Daily.
Gouda is a city in The Netherlands, but when referring to cheese it’s about the process used to transform cow’s milk into the traditional Dutch cheese, not a specific type of cheese. Gouda tastes dramatically different depending on age, and of course, different farms yield different flavor profiles. All young cheeses are very soft. They are nearly impossible to cut with a cheese slicer. They retain a chewy bite in your mouth and a very mild flavor. Older cheeses become harder, saltier and stronger in flavor. There is significantly more umami present. They also have a bit of a crunch to them from cheese crystals that form with time. Aged gouda makes me drool.
Harry and I enjoyed the Essex dish so much that I wanted to attempt to create my own version. Sadly, I don’t have a wood-fired oven at home (as I’m sure you do), but I knew that high heat roasting them would impart some of the same caramelized depth. So, I bought some sprouts and cheese, and played around with vinaigrettes to give it a shot. What I made scratches the Essex itch. This is my kind of winter comfort food, with a bonus zing from the sriracha.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Vinaigrette and Aged Gouda
- 1+ pound Brussels sprouts, stalky bottoms trimmed and sprouts halved (also discard any outer leaves if they’ve yellowed)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sriracha (unless you’re like my Louisiana-born husband, who would triple this)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- A few squirts of dijon mustard (~1/4 teaspoon)
- Aged gouda cheese
Preheat the oven to 400℉, positioning a rack in the center.
Toss the halved Brussels sprouts with salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Spread them evenly on a baking pan. (You don’t want them piled up or squished together. They need space to caramelize.)
Roast the sprouts for 20-25 minutes, tossing them once or twice mid-way to encourage more surface caramelization. Roast until they are nicely browned and soft enough for your fork to penetrate.
Make the sriracha vinaigrette. Put two tablespoons of olive oil with the vinegar, dijon mustard and sriracha in a little jar and shake it vigorously until it’s emulsified. (You can also whisk it, but I find this to be sufficient.)
Gently toss the roasted Brussels sprouts with the vinaigrette to coat them. Serve warm, topped with thin slices of aged gouda. (If you’re like my husband, you will add more sriracha at this point.)
Serves two as a main meal, four as a side. Harry and I ate these as a hearty lunch, sharing a few with the boys prior to putting the dressing on. There were no leftovers.