Recipe: Brussels Sprouts, Crispy Pancetta & Shallots

Everyone I know seems to be on some sort of a detox program this month. The amazing thing is that 25 days into January, most of them are actually sticking to it. I'm on one, too, but that doesn't mean I have to eliminate every food that I love. Take pork, for instance. Add crispy bites of pancetta or prosciutto to a vegetable side dish -- in this case, Brussels sprouts -- and you've got yourself a meal that's still hearty and flavorful. Especially when the Brussels sprouts are steamed in stock rather than pan fried in a pool of grease. This easy recipe is a staple in my in-laws house and thanks to my fab father-in-law for sharing the recipe, it's now one in ours, too.

Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta & Shallots

Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta & Shallots
Adapted from Food Network

  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces paper-thin slices pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth

Directions: Partially cook the Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water, about 4 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until beginning to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the shallot and saute until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts to the same skillet and saute until heated through and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the broth and simmer until the broth reduces just enough to coat the Brussels sprouts, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Saute pancetta until it begins to crisp, about 3 minutes

Add shallot and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes

Add partially-cooked Brussels sprouts & saute until heated through

Add broth and seasonings and bring to boil, covering until dish begins to steam

Plate, serve and enjoy!


Recipe: Warm & Wintry French Onion Soup

One of my favorite cold-weather meals is French onion soup, perfect for today's rainy weather. When I was little, my parents would take my brother and me to the Hamburger Hamlet (RIP), where I would order a mini crock of French onion soup and attack the gooey layer of cheese with my spoon. I never wanted to eat it too fast, making an effort to get some melted Swiss, delicate bread cubes and caramelized onion in each bite. When I was done, "dessert" was picking the crunchy cheese off the sides of the bowl, creating a mini cheese crisp I couldn't get enough of. 

Homemade French onion soup is easier than you think!

I never thought to make it at home, assuming the soup was labor-intensive and incredibly complicated. That all changed when my father-in-law made perhaps my favorite French onion soup from scratch during the holidays and I asked him for the recipe. Turns out it's beyond easy to make and is really healthy. No, really. I promise. It's also an instant crowd pleaser and the perfect cold-weather meal. Try it for yourself. It will become a staple in your meal rotation. 

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
YIELD: 8 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups thinly vertically sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion
4 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 cups less-sodium beef broth
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)

Preparation: Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours. Preheat broiler. Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute. Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Sauté onions in Dutch oven for 5 minutes or until tender

Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown (mine wasn't golden brown yet)

Stir in wine, let cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil.

Divide toasted bread evenly among bowls.

I could eat the soup just like this... but we can't forget the cheese!

Top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

Serve immediately and enjoy!


Food & Wine Mag's "Best Ever Nut Brittle"

The holidays are over and I'm left with empty cupboards, a whole heck of a lot of Lean Cuisines and oddly enough, two pints of heavy cream. I'm one of those people who feels extreme guilt when perfectly good grocery items threaten to go bad, and heavy cream is no exception. So I'm beating the expiration date by using the cream in a big batch of Food and Wine Magazine's "Best Ever" nut brittle. Don't let the name fool you, it really is the best I've ever had. Not to mention, it will make great snacky-snacks for Bryan's poker night on Friday. 

It's True: The Best Ever Nut Brittle!
Here's how you make it:

Best-Ever Nut Brittle
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Servings: 2 pounds

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 ounces roasted salted peanuts, cashews, pistachios and/or pecans
  • Fleur de sel or crushed Maldon sea salt
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is light brown and registers 300° on a candy thermometer, 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the nuts, then immediately scrape the brittle onto a large rimmed, nonstick baking sheet. Using the back of a large spoon (oil it lightly if it sticks), spread the brittle into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break the brittle into large shards.

Combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup

Cook until mixture registers 300° on a candy thermometer

My preferred combination of nuts: Peanuts, cashews & pecans

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. Careful, it'll bubble!

Add in the nuts, quickly stirring to combine. Do it fast or else they'll harden in a chunk.

Immediately scrape onto a large nonstick baking sheet (I lined mine with foil). Spread out quickly with the back of a non-stick spatula. 

Let brittle cool for 30 minutes then break into large shards
MAKE AHEAD The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.


Must Try: Drunken Udder Alcohol-Infused Ice Cream

Two words: Sober January*. Quite literally, a sobering month without any alcohol during which one (in this case, yours truly) attempts to detox from all booze and other adult delights. To be fair, all adult delights for me revolve around booze, so January means no Tanqueray & soda, no Domaine Chandon champagne, no Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, and no fabulous red wines of any varietal. So instead of imbibing during meals with friends or a weekend date night, I'm living vicariously through Drunken Udder, a new discovery that combines two of my favorite things: booze and ice cream.

Photo Courtesy of LA Times
Why no one thought of this before is beyond me, and frankly I'm jealous. Drunken Udder is an "artisanal adults-only ice cream. It takes two of the best vices in life -- alcohol and ice cream -- combining them into one amazing frozen treat." I mean, just look at these flavor combos:

Bourbon Salted Caramel
Caramelized White Chocolate Godiva
Rum Roasted Banana
Vodka Vanilla Bean
Milk Chocolate Stout
Chocolate Cabernet Crunch
Tequila Lime Sorbet
Cinnamon Spiced Rum
Keoke Coffee
Pina Colada
Saffron Candied Ginger Soco
Love Affair
Bailey's Jameson Caramel Swirl
Burnt Honey Orange Scented with Candied Pistachio and Honey Whiskey
The Dirty Elvis
Tequila Vanilla Bean with Toasted Pepita Praline
Prune Armagnac

I could swim in the Bourbon Salted Caramel and perhaps bathe in the Cinnamon Spiced Rum. But I'll have to wait to taste them until February after this cruel Sober January runs its course. In the meantime I leave it to you, dear 21+ year-old reader, to enjoy Drunken Udders' offerings at Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks or at the W Hotel in Westwood. 

Drunken Udder Ice Cream
Contact Drunken Udder

*Note: Sober January really isn't all that bad. And I swear I'm not an alcoholic. So there.


DineLA Returns on Jan. 22 + My Top 5 Picks

Happy 5th anniversary to DineLA! Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the DineLA deal: Two weeks, 300+ participating restaurants serving specially-priced, three-course prix-fixe meals for lunch and dinner. This year, Jan. 22-27 and Jan. 29-Feb 3 are the dates to remember. All you need to do is choose a restaurant, make a reservation and relax while sampling signature dishes provided by some of LA's top chefs. For its 5th anniversary DineLA is going big, signing on the likes of LA Mag's "Best New Restaurant" award-winners Sotto, Picca, The Spice Table, Mezze and Ray's & Stark Bar. Not to mention Italian hotspot Mercado di Vetro. Now the decision is up to you: where are you going to go?

I've already got my list ready ready and waiting. Here are my top 5 DineLA picks:

1. Sotto: I've been there. My husband hasn't. Enough said. I get Test Kitchen deja vu walking into the Pico Blvd. sub-level restaurant, but it's a whole different animal now. Co-owners and chefs Steve and Zach have transformed the place and are serving incredible Southern Italian-inspired dishes. The thick-cut bread with lardo is dangerously indulgent, the Guanciale pizza arrives with glistening house-cured pork cheek and blistered crust, and you'll want to lick the plate of grilled pork meatballs. Don't worry, no one's watching.

Spice Table's Catfish Banh Mi
(Photo courtesy of GrubstreetLA)
2. The Spice Table: Sure, it's cheap even without DineLA's special pricing. And its rumored to be crowded and loud. Whatever. TST has been on my "list" for a long while now. I don't know why, but we haven't quite gotten over the downtown dining hurdle unless we need to kill some time before a concert or Lakers game. I'm willing to brave the crowds and the noise for Spice Table's Southeast-inspired Banh Mi (lunch only), Kaya Toast and Beef Randang.

3. Mercado di Vetro: From hotels to restaurants, SBE just does it right and MDV seems to be no exception. It's the place everyone is talking about, raving about its wood-oven pizzas (tomato ricotta with basil and balsamic... mmm), cured meats and housemade pastas. I can't wait to try the warm farro salad, Ceci crostini and ravioli pasta stuffed with an oozy egg yolk.

4. Grub: A favorite brunch and lunch spot of Bryan and mine for years, Grub is now serving "supper." The menu is creative and indulgent with dishes like potato chip-crusted fried chicken, "crack" bacon quesadilla and Irish nachos (who needs chips when you can load up bits of potato?). Don't forget dessert: the luscious chocolate bacon sandwich is sure to blow your mind. And your diet.

Short Order Burger
Photo courtesy of ShortOrderLA.com
5. Short Order: Right by my work and a perfect place for a colleague lunch. Short Order is the genius brainchild of Nancy Silverton and the late Amy Pressman. Nancy's Backyard Burger (Nancy Silverton's beef blend, Artisan bacon, Comte, Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Iceberg, Spicy Mayo) and Amy's Turkey Burger (Organic Turkey, Sage Cheddar, Melted Celery, Leeks, Mustardy Mayo) are worth every penny plus some. Even though it's not on the lunch menu, get a side of spuds. You won't be sorry.

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