This was a quick Friday evening supper. I was tired and stiff with muscle aches from breaking up concrete (that’s another story coming) and had just been awakened by the dog from a late afternoon power nap when I realized I had not (yet) made a dinner plan.
But — I had some left-over smoked salmon from Christmas eve’s Yulbord and some nice large organic Brussels sprouts. (The salmon had been, frankly, somewhat disappointing — drier than I like. However, it has proved to be just fine for a soufflé and now this.)
The rest of the ingredients came from the pantry and fridge. You could substitute other seafood for the salmon and use some other green vegetable, simply steamed, instead of the Brussels sprouts — green beans? broccoli? asparagus? peas? If your reaction to the Brussels sprouts is “yuk,” please do give these a try — they are not your Mother’s boiled Green Giant frozen sprouts! Lots of large kettles and pans required some juggling for real estate on the stove top. But the prep is fairly simple. Just keep moving to have everything ready at the same time!
I think I do some of my best cooking in this sort of improv way. I’d done Brussels sprouts in a similar way before (they are nice with brown butter and pecans instead of the bacon and cranberries) and I knew they would be lovely. Most of the time Judy gives my meals an A or A-. I’m typically more harsh with the grades, even handing myself an occasional C or D, but this one gets a solid A.
Brussels sprouts — 12-18
mushrooms (Shitake, chanterelle, or crimini) — 1/2 pound
fettucini — 4 oz
salad greens and dressing — whatever you like
lime (for gin and tonic)
garlic — 3 cloves
scallions — 3
hot-smoked salmon — 3/4 cup (or could use shrimp or scallops)
bacon — one thick slice
red pepper flakes
dry sherry (or white wine) — 1/2 cup
dried cranberries — 1/3 cup or so (golden raisins or chopped dried apricots might be OK, too or you can use pecans instead)
half and half — 3/4 cup (or use cream — I don’t think skim milk would do at all here!)
juice of half a lemon
asiago cheese to grate over pasta (or use parmesan or romano)
fresh ground pepper
Start a large kettle of salted water on high heat. You’ll cook the pasta in this as soon as it comes to a boil.
Put an inch or so of water in the bottom of your steamer, and set it on to boil.
Trim (cut off the stem end) and slice in half lengthwise 12 large or 18 small Brussels sprouts more or less. Set aside to steam later.
Put a large frying/saute pan on medium heat. Meanwhile slice 1/2 lb of shitake mushrooms (or use chanterelles or crimini or a combination of them). Put a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and add the ‘shrooms.
When the large kettle of water boils, add 3 to 4 oz fettucini and cook to al dente per package instructions. At the same time, put the Brussels sprouts on and steam them for 7 to 10 minutes (depending on size).
About this time, ask your housemate to join you in the kitchen while she/he makes a tossed green salad and press him/her to have it done at the same time as the pasta and Brussels sprouts. Offer a gin and tonic to sweeten the deal and make one for yourself as well. (Use the ice, gin, tonic, and lime for this. Do you need more directions? I didn’t think so. If so, skip it.)
Stir the ‘shrooms once in a while, but not too often. While they cook, peel, crush, and mince 3 cloves of garlic. Slice 3 scallions into 1/4-inch pieces. Flake about 3/4 cup of hot-smoked salmon. If you have extra, enjoy it as an amuse while you cook. The dog will like the salmon skin and it is full of glycine — an amino acid that is great for his/her coat.
Cut one thick-slice of bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch wide strips and fry it up over medium heat in a frying pan large enough for the Brussels sprouts to spread out.
When the pasta is almost done, add the garlic and scallions along with some red pepper flakes to taste to the mushrooms and stir in. Cook until the garlic is fragrant — a couple of minutes, then add 1/2 cup dry sherry (or other white wine) to deglaze the pan. As the sherry cooks off…
Add the steamed Brussels sprouts to the bacon, which should be well browned and have released enough fat, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Turn once in a while. You want the sprouts to brown well. If then seem to be getting too done, turn the heat down to low.
Drain the pasta when it is done and reserve, keeping warm. Add the salmon to the mushroom mixture and gently heat. (You could also use scallops or shrimp instead of the salmon. If you use scallops, be very careful not to over cook them. Two minutes is enough for bay scallops, three or four for larger sea scallops.) Set the table while the salmon heats or ask your housemate to set it.
Add a small handfull of dried cranberries to the Brussels sprouts and pour 3/4 cup of half-and-half or cream over the mushroom/salmon mixture and gently stir it in. Heat just until the cream starts to bubble. Turn off the heat, add the drained pasta and toss. Squeeze half a lemon over the Brussels sprouts.
Serve the pasta and salmon while hot with some freshly grated asiago cheese (or use parmesan or romano). Place the Brussels sprouts alongside on the left side of the plate at 7 o’clock. Sit, offer grace, and pass the pepper grinder for the pasta. Enjoy with a glass of white wine. Pass the salad when everyone has finished the rest of their dinner.