When it Comes to Holiday Meals, I’m Just Here for the Sides

by | Nov 2021

Napa Valley Brussels Sprouts

Photo: Kowalski’s Market

I don’t mind turkey, ham, etc., but these traditional holiday offerings are just never as exciting to me as practically anything else on the table. Side dishes have all the fun—they’re more interesting to look at, have more texture and offer complicated layers of flavor that turkey simply doesn’t (not even with gravy on it).

Arguably, that’s the critical purpose of a side dish—to provide the crispy, crunchy, creamy mouthful a main dish doesn’t. When a center-of-plate recipe feels a little “one-note,” sides can provide the salty, sweet, spicy, bitter or sour flavors it’s missing. The best sides also provide temperature contrast—a sometimes overlooked element of the taste experience.

I get excited this time of year, when Brussels sprouts are in season, because it gives me a reason to make one of my all-time favorite and most party-perfect side dishes. Napa Valley Brussels Sprouts is my interpretation of a dish I first tasted at Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega, in Yountville, Calif., almost 10 years ago.

More than simply roasted Brussels sprouts, the dish featured a velvety, citrusy grapefruit butter sauce plus syrupy balsamic, crispy bits of salty pork and crunchy nuts with pomegranate seeds and grapefruit segments that positively burst in your mouth. It was a masterpiece. Bitter, sweet, tart, salty, fruity, nutty and roasty with a mélange of meaty, crunchy, silky and juicy textures. And did I mention gorgeous? It was stunning to look at. When I returned home after my trip, replicating the dish was at the top of my to do list. And even if I haven’t remembered it with perfect accuracy, I remember it as being absolutely perfect.

Napa Valley Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 tbsp. Kowalski’s extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground Kowalski’s black peppercorns, plus more for garnish if desired

Garnishes, as desired:

  • Grapefruit Butter Sauce (recipe below)
  • Balsamic reduction (such as Cucina Viva Classic Glaze) or pomegranate molasses
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Chopped pancetta, cooked crisp and drained on paper towels
  • Kowalski’s roasted and salted pepitas
  • Roughly chopped Marcona almonds
  • Citrus segments
  • Freshly ground Kowalski’s sea salt and black peppercorns, to taste

In a large bowl, toss sprouts with oil, season with salt and pepper. In a preheated 400-degree F oven, roast sprouts on a parchment-lined baking sheet until crisp and darkened on the edges and tender at the base (about 20 minutes), stirring once. Move hot sprouts to a serving platter drizzled with butter sauce and/or balsamic reduction, if desired. Garnish with other ingredients as desired. Serve immediately.

Grapefruit Butter Sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine ¾ cup Kowalski’s freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, ½ cup dry white wine and 2 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to about ¼ cup (about 15 minutes). Whisk in 2 Tbsp. heavy cream. Reduce heat to low; whisk in 4 Tbsp. cold Kowalski’s unsalted butter, a little at a time until melted. Season sauce to taste with finely minced fresh Italian parsley, kosher salt and freshly ground Kowalski’s black peppercorns.

Rachael Perron is the culinary and brand director for Kowalski’s Markets, where she specializes in product development and selection, culinary education and communications.


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