The next few weeks can test the nerves of the most intrepid of cooks. For those of you mapping survival strategies on spreadsheets and sticky notes, the holiday countdown has begun. Your kitchen wizardry is legend, and expectations from family and friends are escalating faster than your grocery bill.
No matter you’ve a full-time job. No matter you’ve a gaggle of children underfoot. You’ve been anointed into the sacred realm of the Scratch-Cooking Society. Your family has branded you Gourmet Guru. In hushed tones, your friends bespeak a culinary prowess that would bring Mario Batali to his knees.
But the dishwasher is broken, the dog is sick, and you’ve promised to bring a traditional pilgrim dish to the kid’s class party. And that dish better not be store-bought. You’ve been branded.
You change tactics, pretending you’ve amnesia. “I’ve forgotten how to boil water,” you say, hoping friends and family will come to your rescue. “What’s that?” you inquire, pointing to the food processor.
Everyone laughs. Such a funny person. “So what are you making for Thanksgiving?” they respond. “Remember. Aunt Sara is vegetarian and does not eat saturated fats. And, by the way, Frederick adores that creamy bacon sauce you make.”
“So now I’m your short-order cook?” you’re tempted to say. But you remain silent. You smile. You’ve been anointed.
Here’s a dish, rather two dishes, that may come to your rescue. You roast Brussels sprouts with chanterelles then stop. A dish to serve Aunt Sara. You continue, reheating the Bacon-Sherry-Cream sauce (you made two days ago) then toss it with the remaining roasted Brussels sprouts and chanterelles. Frederick will beg seconds. Genius.
This is the season for Brussels sprouts, which makes them a perfect dish for the Thanksgiving table. I’ve met folks who never liked them, only to find them delicious roasted in the oven. The outer leaves are crispy, and their grassy green body is toothsome, nutty and slightly sweet. Roasting Brussels sprouts intensifies their herbaceous, earthy flavor.
I’ve been spotting fresh chanterelles at local markets lately, particularly at the Produce Station on North Main.
Chanterelles are wild mushrooms with a subtle apricot flavor, particularly delectable in sauces for poultry, pasta and with egg-based dishes. Fresh chanterelles are also sublime roasted with vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts.
Before using them, cut off the stem end and lightly brush off dirt with a paper towel or clean cloth. Don’t wash chanterelles unless you absolutely must — and in that case it’s best to do it right before cooking.
Dried chanterelles are easier to come by and may be found at most groceries throughout the year. Many cooks find the drying process intensifies their flavor profile. I wouldn’t roast rehydrated dry mushrooms. If using in this recipe, I’d sauté them in a bit of olive oil for the reduced-fat version; or in the last three minutes of cooking time with the cream sauce. Save the water used for soaking them. It would lend a flavor boost to your sauce.
As for the simple-to-make sauce? How could you go wrong with a symphony of bacon, butter, cream and sherry? (Just make sure to move the sauced batch away from Aunt Sara. She’s had her share!)