A year or so ago, Arne and I visited a very hip restaurant in Colorado Springs (or so it seemed to me, though I may not be the ultimate arbiter of coolness): Nosh. I was first attracted to it by the koi in its logo and the idea of small plates, which are my very favorite way to eat. (I mean, why have just one entree when you could try five little dishes?)
The dining room was dark, bar-like, and dominated by a mural of koi. The internationally inspired food was transporting: imaginative, delicious, and surprising. By far the most memorable dish of the evening exemplified all three adjectives – Brussels sprouts with kochujang (Korean chile sauce), manchego cheese, and lemon zest, served on a bed of polenta. I couldn’t imagine what it would taste like, so of course I had to have it. How it tasted was… magical. The sprouts were roasted to near black, crispy in spots and melting in others, and the flavors combined sweet, salty, savory, and hot with a tart citrus zing from the lemon zest, all undergirded by the creamy earthiness of the polenta.
I’ve been dreaming of that plate of food ever since.
This wasn’t my first attempt to replicate it (sans polenta, which is not among my favorite foods), but it was definitely the most successful. These things are totally addictive – you won’t have to figure out what to do with leftovers! – and simple to throw together.
I didn’t really measure when I made these; all amounts are guesses, which you should adjust to your taste. Besides, there’s such a difference in the heat and saltiness of chile sauces that how much you use is going to depend a lot on what kind of sauce you have. I used a Korean sauce that comes in a plastic squeeze bottle and seems to be called “Soonchang Soonchang,” which I think is a thinned-down variation on gochujang (spelled “kochujang” above because that’s how they spelled it on Nosh’s menu).
Chile-Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves: 2 to 4 Time: 1 hour Hands-on: 15 minutes
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Rinse about a pound of Brussels sprouts. Trim off any hard woody stem ends and cut all the sprouts in half. In a bowl, toss the sprouts with two or more tablespoons of Korean gochujang, Chinese chile-garlic paste, Indian chile sambal, or similar Asian chile sauce; two teaspoons of peanut oil or other neutral oil; a few drops of sesame oil; and salt and pepper to taste.
Spread out on a well-oiled baking pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out and stir or shake to move them around the pan, then roast another 10 minutes. Remove from oven again and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a small lemon over the Brussels sprouts; now cut the half lemon you just squeezed into strips, add to the sprouts, and give the whole thing a good stir. Replace in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, until the sprouts are blackened in places and the lemon pieces are softened and tasty. The sprouts will fall apart a little; that’s fine. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if necessary. Serve hot. Gild the lily with a sprinkling of Manchego or Parmesan cheese, if desired.