Hot Ingredient: Brussels Sprouts
BY BRIDGET SALMONS
Brussels sprouts are having a moment. Once banished from our plates, the lowly cabbage (mistakenly hated for the sulfurous taste it takes on when overcooked) is now one of the favorite ingredients of Philly’s chefs. Just ask Michael Schulson, of recently opened Sampan, whose crispy Brussels sprouts have become the unexpected star of the restaurant’s Asian-themed menu. “When you open a restaurant you have no idea what’s going to be the big hit,” he says. “The two biggest things for us are such bizarre items — the bahn mi and the Brussels sprouts.”
About the latter: As a self-proclaimed sprout-lover, Schulson was sick of seeing sprouts simply roasted with bacon, so he gave the winter veg a “sweet and salty and spicy and acidic” makeover: un-battered sprouts are deep-fried at high temp until the leaves are brown and crispy, before being tossed in fish sauce and sherry vinegar. Schulson then adds sautéed chilies, ginger and garlic, puffs of jasmine rice, and fresh mint and cilantro. Sweet, salty, spicy, acidic. Check.
With the the season coming to an end — Schulson says more and more he’s seeing smaller sprouts delivered to the restaurant — you can also get in on the sprout craze at Varga Bar (where they are roasted with aged balsamic, lemon, parmesan, and olive oil), Alison Two (where they are caramelized and served with blackberries, prosciutto, and ricotta salata), and Supper (two choices here: served shaved in strozzapreti pasta with leeks, hazelnuts, and sage brown butter, or as part of the vinegar braised chicken with figs, bacon, and Anson Mills grits).