Dec 5, 2010

When snow threatens

The greengrocer offered me sprout tops, just as the weather started shifting from grey to white.  I'd never seen them before - the top end of a Brussels sprout plant, post-harvesting.  A couple of leaves, and marble-sized sprouts hiding between them.   They looked good, so I took two.  To cook, I chopped one roughly, then stirred in a dry saucepan, on top of a chopped rasher of bacon and two crushed juniper berries.  When it is a deep, soft green, remove, and deglaze the pan with a splash of gin and a stripe of milk which naturally goes on top.   Cream should also work, but I was trying to reserve the richness for the other half of the plate.   They are sweeter than your standard sprout and happily snuggle up with the juniper.

So, for extra frost protection and my daily dose of garlic, another first: panade.  Normally I wouldn't be too fussed about by something that sounds like cooked bread, but the looming skies and Orangette's enthusiasm convinced me.  And it seemed rustic and homely and comforting all those things sometimes regarded as good, especially in winter.  I gathered handful of stiff chard from the garden, a couple of spinach leaves too.  Chopped and slowly fried an onion with the garlic slipped in at the end. Sliced and wilted the greens, grate some cheddar, and rip apart the toughest bread in the house.  Layer the ingredients in an oven-proof dish - onions, then chard, then bread, then cheese.  Repeat.  Drizzle with stock then sprinkle the last bits of cheese on top.  Bake at 180C for 40 minutes, covered, then a few more uncovered to brown.  The long stewing of the onion gives a beautiful depth of flavour, while the bread sucks up a surprising amount of juice: a pregnant sponge.  The cheese almost disappears, leaving just warmth and flavour. 


arcadia said...

Die tops lyk heeltemal anders as wat ek myself voorgestel het. Het die brood soggy geraak?