Carbs. They’re everywhere. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks are loaded with them. I’m talking about the refined, sugary, starchy variety here. I love fruit, and I eat it with gusto. However, it is difficult to enjoy your favorite flavors without finding them sandwiched between, stacked on top of, hidden underneath, or served alongside some form of starchy loveliness. I enjoy eating (check out my opinion piece on the hedonic treadmill). I feel deprived, as do most, if I limit myself to small quantities or deprive myself of flavor profiles that I enjoy. Over the years I have learned to substitute carbohydrates for more waistline-friendly options and have had a reasonable amount of success with it. One of my favorite dishes, for breakfast lunch or dinner, is shaved brussels sprouts.
There are many ways to approach this dish. I will break it down to its central components; Brussels sprouts, flavoring component (cured pork products), seasoning and technique. Get these right and the opportunities are endless. The result is a dish that feels rich and luxurious but is super low in calories. You are essentially eating a salad but it feels like a hearty and satisfying meal. The brussel sprouts have a texture, if cooked correctly, that lends heartiness, the cured pork scintillates the taste buds although it is versatile. In this version, I use ham and I season it with a Cajun spice mix that I make (see recipe). You can serve this with some form of protein on top. I love boneless chicken thighs seasoned with Cajun seasoning and blackened in a cast iron pan. A couple sunny-side-up eggs are a magnificent addition as well.
Play around with this recipe. You can use bacon, pancetta, chorizo, andouille, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage or any other type of cured pork you wish. If I were to use bacon or pancetta, I would season it with salt, pepper, red chili flakes and garlic. I would finish it with parmesan cheese and a couple fried eggs on top. If you wanted to use chorizo, you could finish it with Manchego cheese and a grilled pork chop. The opportunities are endless.
1 lb bag of brussels sprouts
1 cup of cubed ham
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion
3-4 stalks of celery
Cajun seasoning to taste
2-3 TBSP of olive oil
To begin, wash the brussels sprouts and cut them vertically into 1/8th-inch slices. Finely dice the green bell pepper, yellow onion, and celery. These three are collectively known as the trinity. You will want a frying pan with tall sides, non-stick is preferable. It is important to get the pan very hot. This will add color and flavor. Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the trinity. Sauté for 5 minutes or until they have softened and some color has developed. Add your ham and season generously with Cajun seasoning. Sauté for a few minutes until some color has developed. You will want to see some of the oil being released and take on the color of the seasoning. Resist the urge to turn down the heat. The seasoning will blacken a bit but that adds flavor. Add the brussels sprouts and stir to coat evenly with the oil and veggies in the pan. Be careful not to stir them too much because the sprouts on the bottom will take on color while releasing steam which cooks the sprouts above. Once you see color on the bottom sprouts stir and fold the ones on the top to the bottom. This process should only take about 10 minutes if your pan is super-hot. If you feel like they are taking on too much color and the sprouts are too raw, take them off the heat and cover with a lid. The residual heat and steam will finish them. It’s important to leave a bit of crunch, or they become less desirable. Now add the protein option of your choice, or don’t; it’s delicious either way.
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