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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Easy Holiday Side Dish: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with Goat Cheese and Pecans

Two weekends ago, I made my return to the Webb City Farmers Market for a demo & sampling of a fall/holiday recipe. I wanted to choose something that was very seasonal, fairly simple, and would make a fantastic side dish for a holiday meal. Brussels sprouts came to mind along with cranberries!

Many people are turned off by Brussels sprouts, often citing the sulfury or peppery flavors as the reasons. But by roasting Brussels sprouts, they take on a bit of a more mild, roasty, and dare I say sweeter? This is caused by the Maillard reaction, or browning. Without getting too geeky, the Maillard reaction is when amino acids in foods go through chemical changes to create more complex, larger molecules called melanoidins. The food not only browns, but has attached flavor molecules. This is why roasts taste different when they are browned, than just boiled. Or the browned skin of the chicken tastes so good.

Now, to this deeper, more complex flavor you have created with the Brussels sprouts, add the tart, but slightly sweet flavor from the cranberries being roasted, as well. Then, create another flavor and texture layer by adding some toasted pecans. You get that crunch, and another complex toasted flavor. Lets toss some Terrell Creek goat cheese into the dish. Now, you have the tangy, and creamy, component. Finish the dish off with a little acid in the form of Balsamic vinegar and some sweetness and glazing from honey. And BOOM! You have an easy tossed together side dish for your holiday meal that is altogether seasonal, complex in flavor, interesting textures working together, and can soften the most hardened heart against Brussels sprouts!
So, give this recipe a try for an easy side dish at your holiday meals! 
Take note, none of these numbers are set in stone. As a matter of fact, I eyeball, and taste test, to put together my version. Feel free to play around!
I realized, after taking this picture, that I never took a picture with the pecans, goat cheese, or Balsamic honey drizzle atop!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries
With Pecans and Goat Cheese

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1-2 Tblsp olive oil
2/3 C whole fresh cranberries
1/3 C goat cheese (Chevre), crumbled
1/2 C pecan halves
1 Tblsp Balsamic vinegar
3 Tblsp honey

1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.  Place the Brussels sprouts in a bowl and toss with 1-2 Tblsp olive oil and salt, to taste. 
     Place on a baking sheet and cook on a low oven rack for approximately 30 minutes. 
     Occasionally, stir the sprouts to ensure even browning.

3.  Add the cranberries to the sprouts and continue to roast for an additional 10 minutes, or 
     until the cranberries begin to pop.

4.  While the roasting is taking place, toast the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat,
     shaking the pan periodically. Be sure not to overcook the pecans. Cool slightly, and

5.  Mix together the balsamic vinegar and honey, like a dressing. Taste to find the right
     amounts of each, based on personal preference.

6.  When the sprouts and cranberries come out of the oven, remove them to a serving bowl.
     Top with the crumbled goat cheese and chopped toasted pecans. Drizzle with the
     balsamic honey and toss lightly to combine.

Drink Pairings:
I would find an American Brown Ale or a Saison as far as beer goes. Both styles should play nicely with the roastiness of the Brussels sprouts, and overall, pair well with the rest of a Thanksgiving meal. For a wine pairing, I would suggest a Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps from New Zealand.

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