Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I consider myself fairly skilled at some things, others not-so-much. I can pull together a decent meal, I’m really good at making sandwiches and I’d like to think I’m a pretty approachable source to help you pick out an interesting, but inexpensive wine. I’m also quite clear about those things where my particular skill set falls short: any feat of athleticism, catching a ball, throwing a ball, running without complaining, being patient when I’m hungry and putting clean laundry away. Fortunately, in some aspects my mate fills in where I fall short. He’s smart and organized around the house and thorough where I am often slapdash, but together we are truly good at one thing and that thing is Sundays.
For many years when I was in the restaurant business, I worked every Sunday morning. First on the floor, pouring coffee and doling out pancakes and then later behind the bar, where I mastered making a 2 gallon jar of Bloody Mary mix in less than 5 minutes flat and learned to pour a mimosa in my sleep. So a few years back when I made the shift from the 9-5 world to retail, I knew working weekends would be in the cards. But I set out, in my initial interview, that this woman will not work Sundays. You can take your time and a half; Sundays are sacred to the core. And we Bensons are super good at them. I prefer to have zero social plans, so we can meander through the day unfettered. We like to make breakfast and linger over way too many cups of coffee, with some music on and have a long conversation. Often times we have our most important conversations on Sunday mornings, because it’s that time when we reconnect and get that sense that can sometimes get lost in the chaos of the week, that we are, in fact, in this together.
Half way through the day on Sunday, I’ll often call someone up to come over for dinner, whether it be Paul’s folks, my mom, our friend Shane, or my dad. Often, if my mom is coming back up from the Cape, I’ll tell her to grab some littlenecks and fish and we’ll make a supper out of her hauls. Steaming the littlenecks in a simple situation of shallots, garlic and white wine; serving the whole steaming pot with a few grilled slices of bread or some chunky Ciabatta. Fish and seafood in general, when you’re lucky enough to be from Massachusetts, where fresh, local catch is often abundant, is best not messed with. So I dress the cod with a sprinkle of salt, a hefty sifting of Old Bay, a squeeze of lemon and a few pats of butter and toss it in the oven to bake. A simple main dish and two sides, a classic Sunday supper and a chance to be with friends and family. This is what I live for, this is what it’s all about. A few Sundays back this particular salad was a perfect late spring side for a simple, delicious fish dinner. I told you I’m good at this.
SHAVED BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD
with BACON, ALMONDS and PECORINO
1-2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
3-4 slices bacon
½ cup raw almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup grated Pecorino cheese
For the dressing:
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp. reserved bacon fat
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
Splash orange juice
Splash rice vinegar
Salt and pepper
Set bacon in a cold skillet over medium-high heat. Brown thoroughly, remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve one teaspoon of the warm bacon grease. Crumble cooled bacon into bits, set aside. While the bacon browns, prep the sprouts: trim the tough ends off your sprouts, then peel off the outer leaves. Slice in half and place cut side down on a cutting board; use a super sharp knife to thinly shave the sprouts into tiny ribbons. Place in salad bowl and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper.
Toast almonds in a low oven or over low heat in a small nonstick pan until fragrant. Coarsely chop and add to bowl with shaved sprouts. Use a microplane or fine grater to grate Pecorino into bowl and add bacon bits.
For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a jar and using an immersion blender, emulsify; or, clamp the lid on the jar and shake like crazy to combine. Pour about half the dressing over salad, toss together and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Before serving, toss in a bit more dressing and serve with the remainder of dressing on the side.
This salad, like most slaws (which it resembles closely), really does well to soak up the dressing for a bit. The end result is really unique- a little salty and decadent thanks to the bacon and Pecorino, a touch bitter and crisp courtesy of the sprouts and overall bright and delicious, care of a terrific, simple dressing. This is also a killer salad for pairing wine with. In this case, we were drinking Raventos i Blanc l’Hereu- a delicious sparkling Spanish wine; but it would work with any mineral tinged white- an Albarino, a California style Sauvignon, even Muscadet. Actually, almost any white, period. A wine-friendly food- you gotta love that.