I’ve never understood the moaning and groaning about brussels sprouts; then again, I noticed that there’s always plenty left over after Thanksgiving at my house. I love brussels sprouts, so it’s ok by me. I usually make them in a simple braise with chicken stock and butter, then add a handful of chopped, freshly roasted chestnuts. I’ve always found that braising is better than roasting, since it infuses flavor throughout the sprout and softens it up a bit, whereas roasting makes for a more crunchy (tho’ pleasantly browned) sprout, slicked with oil. It just isn’t, in my opinion, a vegetable that roasts well. The only brassica that roasts well is cauliflower, and even that doesn’t have the water content to make a wonderful roast like, say, squash or asparagus.
This year, I’m going to try something new. Since Retrogrouch is one of the millions of Americans who don’t eat brussels sprouts, I can experiment. I’m going to stirfry up a brussels sprouts hash with dukkha, an Egyptian nut and spice mix that features Willamette Valley hazelnuts. Even though it sounds strange, I think the flavors will match very well with the turkey and stuffing.
Dukkha is used as a dip for breakfast, snacks, and myriad other occasions in Egypt. It is made of coarsely chopped hazelnuts, and a mix of ground toasted sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, black pepper and salt. It’s really lovely just with bread dipped in olive oil, but you can also use it as a crust for fish, chicken or tofu, or mix it in coleslaw or roasted vegetables. Or mix it in some absolutely incredible (I hope) brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, and fried with a bit of argan oil, chicken stock and…bacon. Y’all can eat the turkey.
Needless to say, it’s a fantastic use of the hazelnuts that are in season right now and at our local farms.
Dukkha is also Buddhist concept. It describes the suffering in life that happens when you live and lust in the world. Surely, the name is a coincidence and has nothing to do with the Middle Eastern spice that will be topping my brussels sprouts hash. Still, I like the idea of my guests suffering through yet another Thanksgiving with me and my brussels sprouts. Or partaking of suffering gladly, consuming dukkha like there’s no tomorrow. Chacun à son goût.
All right, enough already. Speaking of suffering, I’ve got to make a run to the store on this, the day before Thanksgiving, because — ugh — I think I lost my big roaster.
Everyone else can sit back, relax, maybe check out my new column in the Eugene Weekly? I haven’t seen it yet. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Willamette Valley Hazelnut Dukkha Spice Mix
1/2 cup roasted Willamette Valley hazelnuts
1/2 cup white sesame seeds (taste first — they go rancid quickly)
1 t. whole black peppercorns
1 t. whole coriander
1 t. whole cumin seeds, or 1/2 t. powder
1/2 coarse sea salt
In a stainless steel pan, so you can monitor the color, toast the whole spices over medium heat until lightly colored and smelling fragrant. Remove and set aside for grinding. Then toast the sesame seeds, watching them very carefully so they don’t burn (and they burn quickly) until golden brown. Grind the spices in a mortar or spice grinder into coarse pieces. Combine the salt, ground spices, sesame seeds and hazelnuts in a food processor, and chop coarsely. Don’t overprocess, or you will get a paste. You want the mix to be sandy with bigger chunks of hazelnuts.