Brussels Sprouts With Caramelized Shallots & Pancetta

The first things I think about when Turkey Day closes in are the sides, and which wines to pair with them. What really stimulates my thoughts are the rich aromas of roasted vegetables, pan-seared meats, sauces, and, well… the list goes on. I like to take the opportunity to help my friends and family re-think/re-taste vegetables that they might not have appreciated in the past. I like to give the benefit of the doubt that the dishes where not prepared well. The subject in this instance is Brussels sprouts, and one of the best ways to enjoy them is by sautéing them!

Sautéing them on their own would not be enough for me, however. I like to introduce some other characteristics that will play well with those toasty aspects. A good start is caramelized shallot, pan-seared pancetta, and at the end, a little aged balsamic vinegar! All these flavors add up to a spectacular dish that anyone would love.

So, next on the list of what to consider is what I would like in my glass. I can think of a couple of reds that I had recently. For this once-a-year occasion, I like to have something more pricey than usual – such as a Barbaresco from a top producer. Rizzi was established in 1974 and is being run by the children of the founder, Ernesto Dellapiana. “Pajore” is the name of their highly regarded vineyard site. The wine exhibits elegance and finesse. Delicate aromas and palate feel work perfectly to cut through the savory richness of this side, but they also won’t overpower the turkey itself!

2 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 to 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. Brussels sprouts (about 18 medium sprouts), trimmed and halved through the core
1 medium-sized shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
Freshly ground black pepper
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Coarse sea salt

1. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in medium skillet over medium heat.
2. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
3. In a heavy 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan set over medium-low heat, slowly cook the pancetta in 1 Tbsp. of the oil until golden and crisp all over, 10 to 15 minutes.
4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the fat behind. You should have about 2 Tbsp. of fat in the pan; if not, add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Have 1/2 cup water ready.
5. Put the pan over medium-high heat and arrange the sprouts, cut side down, in a single layer. Cook undisturbed until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. When the sprouts are browned, add the water to the pan, cover immediately, and simmer until the sprouts are tender when poked with a fork or skewer, about 3 minutes. (If the water evaporates before the sprouts get tender, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.)
7. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a plate.
8. Return the pan to medium-high heat and if any water remains, let it boil off. Add the balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of pepper. Boil the vinegar (if not aged*) until it’s reduced to about 2 Tbsp. and looks lightly syrupy, about 2 minutes.
9. Reduce the heat to low, add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, and stir until melted.
10. Return the sprouts and pancetta to the pan and swirl and shake the pan to evenly coat the sprouts with the sauce.
11. Season to taste with salt and more pepper and serve.

*If you have aged vinegar, skip this step and just drizzle the vinegar over the top at the end.

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