Brussels Sprout Off: Aunt Kathy’s vs. Cook’s Illustrated

I am proud to say that since Dave and I have been dating, his palate has become more sophisticated.  He is pretty adventurous when it comes to food, (he even tried pig tail once!), but until recently held on to some childhood food aversions.  Like asparagus (too mushy), cole slaw (too creamy) and Brussels sprouts (again, too mushy).  I feel like it is a common stereotype that all kids hate Brussels sprouts.  But I would hope as they mature, so do their taste buds, and they come to appreciate all a Brussels sprout has to offer.  I asked Dave to consider trying them again after 20 years, and surprisingly, I didn’t have to twist his arm too much.  Now he is a Brussels sprout lover!  Look at that!

So I was excited when I saw a Brussels sprout recipe in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  Let me clarify, I am a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated.  I have an online subscription and a magazine subscription. I am even a “Friend of Cook’s Illustrated”, testing recipes currently under development. I don’t think it gets more zealous than that.

Dave’s Aunt Kathy, who is a chef and owns her own cooking school, In The Kitchen, in Haddonfield, NJ, first showed Dave how to roast broccoli with just olive oil, salt and pepper.  This method consistently produces perfectly roasted vegetables, including Brussels sprouts.

So why not test Aunt Kathy’s way vs. the Cook’s Illustrated method?  The recipes were slightly different and I wanted to see if the results would be the same.  Cook’s Illustrated basically steamed the sprouts in the oven for 10 minutes by covering the baking sheet with aluminum foil.  The foil was then removed before roasting for another 10 minutes. I was so disappointed by the outcome. My all-knowing ATK turned out a mushier version (what they described as “tender”) of Aunt Kathy’s.ATK’s is on the left, Aunt Kathy’s on the right.  Can you see the difference?

Conclusion:  Even the most knowledgeable of people, aren’t always right.

Winner:  Aunt Kathy’s Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts, ends cut off, whole or halved
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Slather and toss Brussels sprouts in olive oil, til every inch is glistening, in either a bowl or on a baking sheet.  Transfer to baking sheet, if not already using one.  Season with black pepper.

2. Roast in oven for 12 minutes, shaking the pan half way through cook time.

3. Brussels sprouts should be bright green, bottoms caramelized, with some burnt leaves.  Season with sea salt to taste, and serve.


A Curious Palate

If you know me, you know that I love food. And wine. And a good dirty martini.  But I would like to clarify that because I love food, does not mean I love to EAT.  I believe these are two different things.  I love to TASTE (with the exception of chocolate, I do love to EAT that.)  And if you know me, you know I am an unabashed food snob.  I admittedly hate chain restaurants and prefer dishes made from scratch with fresh ingredients.

And one more thing……I have a huge crush on Ina Garten.  I have all 7 of her cookbooks that I reference more than once a week. The first Barefoot Contessa cookbook I received was Barefoot in Paris for my bridal shower, but I didn’t use it til 3 years later.  And since then, I’ve been hooked. Special thanks to my friends who gave me that formative gift and to my mom and sister-in-law for helping me complete the collection!

Since I am often asked for recipe and restaurant recommendations, I thought I would share my passion for the art and science of good eating and drinking.  This includes recipe testing, restaurant reviews, wine tasting, and any other interesting culinary related items that strike my fancy.  I have to give a big shout out to my wonderful boyfriend, Dave, who is also a talented photographer.  The pictures will be mostly his, so I can’t take any credit for them. I hope you follow me and my curious palate on our adventures in food and wine – the good bad and the ugly!

Speaking of ugly and Ina Garten, the first recipe I am sharing is Banana Crunch Muffins from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  I made these for a book club brunch and decreased the scale by 25%; I didn’t need to make 18 muffins, I needed to make 12.  I filled them to the top of the muffin cup, like the directions said.  This is what came out of the oven and onto the cooling rack:

There was no picture to reference in the cookbook, so I am not sure what they are actually supposed to look like. I know some prefer a “muffin top” on muffins; there was a whole Seinfeld episode about it! As long as it is not of the unfashionable type, we’re good.  There was a runt of the litter that came out looking like one would think is a normal muffin.  I compared the two – you tell me which one you think looks more appetizing.

Overall, they were very moist and had a great banana flavor.  I excluded the coconut, as for some reason I tend to surround myself with people who do not like coconut, and the walnuts since I am not a huge fan of nuts in my bread.

Banana Crunch Muffins
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Makes 18 Large Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas
1 cup small-diced walnuts
1 cup granola
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the melted butter and blend.  Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture.  Scrape the bowl and blend well.  Don’t overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top.  Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.