I happened upon a book signing at one of my local grocers a year or two ago. Oprah's private chef, Art Smith, was promoting his book, Back to the Family. He was doing a cooking demonstration of one of the recipes from his book, the theme of which was sharing meals with the people you love most and getting back to the family. It's filled with yummy dishes from his childhood in the south. And southern cooking, like shoes, is one of my downfalls.
I was initially a little reticent because he was going to show us a recipe for...wait for it....brussel sprouts. Now I loved sitting at a family dinner when I was young just as much as the next person, and I indulged my mom when she tried to teach us not to turn anything down until we tried it. I tried hers. Uh, I turned her down. Good try, mom.
So I reluctantly took a seat to watch Oprah's chef, and I mentally dared him to keep my attention long enough to taste-test the little cabbage that could. I knew one of his tricks. First of all, let me say up front that he needs to keep his day job. He can't cook and talk at the same time, and I was so focused on watching the steps he was taking (he proceeded to throw in a pinch of this and a pinch of that while droning on about his mother, Adie Mae - without telling you what he was doing), I started to forget the flashbacks I had of gently slipping my slimy sprouts to the family dog when I was a kid so I wouldn't hurt my mom's feelings.
As the samples were passed along the audience, I was pleasantly surprised. My palate had just taken a surprising turn. These are brussel sprouts? A little salty, a little tangy, crispy brown and just the right texture. Art had won me over and his little p.r. stunt worked. I bought the book just so I would have the recipe.
So here 'tis...with just one or two additions of my own. And true to my own methods, I don't measure. And I get tired of writing "to taste." So just sprinkle away, and just bear with me.
Wash some fresh (not frozen! Blechhhh....) brussel sprouts.
Peel off just one or two top leaves, trim the root end, and cut in half.
Place the sprouts in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic, and some red pepper flakes.
Add pinches of sugar, sea salt and pepper.
Roast in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove, cover with foil, and return to the oven for about 15 more minutes (this steams them a bit).
About 5 minutes before done, sprinkle a little parmesan cheese over sprouts and cook without tin foil until crispy and brown.
I'm glad I went to see Art. Even got him to autograph my book, which included lots of x's and o's.
Take that, Oprah.
Catherine DeCenzo DeCenzo is a freelance writer living in the Broadlands. She prefers the glass-half-full, humorous side of life and has an appetite for the irreverent in her personal blog at catclause.wordpress.com.