Tag Archives: brussels sprouts

a december to remember

(or, “how I attempt to fit a month’s worth of blogging into one post”…)

Vintage home goods by Hugh at the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar

Did I really let the whole month of December go by without posting a single time? I guess that’s what will happen when you decide to plan a big event in early December AND take on a few freelance jobs in addition to attempting to supply the metro area with homemade jam for their gift-giving needs.

The main room at Food Bazaar- the Beau Bien table is at lower left

At the risk of sounding like one of those end-of-year holiday letters, allow me to recap for posterity. I brought the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar back this year, dubbing it the “2nd annual”, so I guess I’m committed to making it a yearly event now! It was quite a bit bigger than last year’s, with 26 vendors (as opposed to 16) and a much larger venue, in an unfinished space above Cost Plus Wines in Eastern Market. The evening wasn’t without hitches (just ask my friend James), but considering my inexperience with event planning and the “rustic”, on-the-down-low nature of the event, I’d say it was a pretty slamming success. We added more prepared-food vendors as well as some tables (borrowed from Tashmoo– thanks Suzanne & Aaron!) where people could take in the city views from the large front windows. It will be an interesting challenge to see where things go next year- I think the Bazaar has already outgrown something that can be sustained as an underground endeavor, so I’ll likely have to figure out how to proceed “above board” (i.e. pulling permits, etc) while keeping the spirit and purpose of the original event.

A selection of chocolate truffles from Pete’s Chocolates

Naturally fermented pickles by Suddenly Sauer

Incidentally, thanks to my pal Evan over at Gourmet Underground Detroit for the food bazaar photos, since I was too busy running around to take any. If you check out this post, you can see a slideshow with more pics from the bazaar as well as the GUDetroit holiday party. The first image in the slideshow is from a fun little photo shoot we did at our house. Update: I just came across another Food Bazaar slideshow on the Drought Juice website here– nice pics, ladies!

A sampling of our jams

Seeing as how Beau Bien sold out of product at the Food Bazaar, the weeks between 12/9 and Christmas were kept busy scrambling to fill holiday orders. Big ups to my partner Molly who really kept the ship afloat while I was tied up at my desk job! We have big goals for 2012, so stay tuned on that.

A shopper browses Marvin‘s (mostly) food photos at the Bazaar

Speaking of desk jobs, as of right now I have 12 more weeks until I will officially be self-employed. Eek! I’ve always felt deep down that I’d be best suited to work for myself; I’m anxious to test that theory. I’ll continue to do freelance writing and recipe development as well as take Beau Bien to the next level… Scary but exciting!

After the blur of Food Bazaar and jam-making, the final days before Christmas were still full-steam-ahead as I got last-minute gifts and planned holiday food. Christmas Eve (or “Puerto Rican Christmas” as I call it) was spent at my mother in law’s and, like always, the food was spectacular (more about this in my next post). The next day we were off to Okemos to see my dad. We had a venison ham, which was new to me, and smoked turkey. Since we had to travel, I opted for simplicity and made a spinach salad and some brussels sprouts. I’ve been making b-sprouts this new way, in a skillet with bacon, mustard diluted with a little stock, and caraway seeds (shredded cabbage is also good with this combo). I like to think it pays homage to my German side, although I have no idea if Germans would put caraway seeds in a vegetable dish. Either way, the dish was well-received even by the brussels sprouts skeptics.

My birthday, 12/27, was 24 hours of fun (ahem… literally). I really am getting too old to celebrate like that anymore! It started off innocently enough, with a small brunch at our place with my siblings and a few friends. After a leisurely afternoon we hit Roast happy hour and didn’t look back… an obligatory trip to the Sugar House was next, followed by the Lager House to see some bands, and ending up at Northern Lights. The party carried on back at the house, where we finished up a previously started euchre game in true Lothamer style.

Gaylord, MI | photo by Marvin Shaouni

After all of that celebrating and running around, it was heavenly to spend a few relaxing days up north with friends for New Year’s (hey, at my age, partying is getting to be hard work!). It was the most down time I’ve had in ages- I actually got to read a fair bit (this and this), we cooked, made fires, went sledding, cuddled with canines, played cards, drank wine, saw a movie, and soaked in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a Michigan winter surrounded by snow-laden pine trees (pretty magical in a place with floor-to-ceiling windows).

Aaron & Riley

So now it’s back to the grind, at least until April, and then it’ll be a hustle instead of a grind. As one of my goals for 2012, I’m going to try my best to get back in the swing of regular blogging- as my friend MK likes to say, “It’s easy to start a blog; it’s hard to keep one going”. In fact, I’m working on a new layout and design and hope to launch the blog under my own URL in the next couple months (I’ve owned simmerdownfood.com for over a year but for the time being it just redirects here).  Lots of things in the works, people. I hope all of you have exciting plans and projects for this year as well, and I wish you all a happy New Year! More recipe posts coming very soon.

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brussels sprouts with chestnuts for a harvest dinner

I was talking to my mom a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that she wanted to send my blog link to a friend, but it had been “so long” since I had last posted, that she didn’t have the link anymore (she gets the feed through email).  Yikes!  I’m certainly far from the days where I used to post two or even three times a week, but I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad.

The silver lining is that I’ve been occupied with other new and exciting projects, including some freelance writing for these publications, making jam and other treats for my fledgling company Beau Bien Fine Foods, organizing the first-ever (and I hope annual) Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar, and rehearsing and playing shows with Scarlet Oaks.  Are you tired just reading that?  Combined with house-hunting (we found one! More on this later…) and a full social calendar, I have barely had time to cook lately let alone photograph it or write about it.

When my good friend and Beau Bien business partner Molly organized a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at her place, I was determined not to let the opportunity pass since I had to cook a dish to bring anyway.  I had some peeled, roasted chestnuts from the shipment of goodies that Oh! Nuts sent me a few months back and I knew I wanted to incorporate those.  I recalled a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast with brussels sprouts and chestnuts and used that as a guideline.  The combination of pancetta and brussels sprouts was not new for me, but the addition of chestnuts, marsala and a generous amount of parsley intrigued me.

I got up nice and early (8am) to make sure I had plenty of time to run errands, cook, take pictures, get ready, etc, but was foiled by Michigan’s now-overturned law that you can’t purchase alcohol before noon on Sundays… ugh.  That’s not the first time I’ve needed alcohol for Sunday cooking only to have to wait (I never said I was a good planner).  I ended up being about an hour late to the party due to the rushing around, but my stress was soon soothed with a delicious glass of bourbon milk punch made by my friend Todd.  If you’ve never had a milk punch, think eggnog-ish, but less cloying. As an added bonus, the milk was a delicious raw milk from a local cow share.

Dinner was a mix of old and new foods and friends. Molly’s sister and brother-in-law brought a turkey they smoked in their “egg”, with a subtly smoky flavor that didn’t overwhelm the other foods. The stuffing was made from wild rice and sausage, there was a green salad with fennel and orange, a fresh cranberry relish, and a great roasted cauliflower dish with capers and vinaigrette that, I’m sad to say, completely upstaged my slightly overcooked sprouts.  I’m totally cribbing that for the next potluck I attend (don’t worry Evan, Ill give you your due credit!).  For dessert, our friends Noah and Liz made sweet potato pie and apple pie. Where I found room for those I’ll never know, but I do know that if I ever make sweet potato pie I’m making it with graham cracker crust.  Another idea to appropriate.

After dinner we walked across Lafayette Park (erm, there may have been a bit of stumbling along with the walking- see above) in the unseasonable 65°weather over to Supino’s in Eastern Market, where some friends had broken down a pig and were having a party of sorts.  I’m regretting not taking the camera for that portion of the evening, and also regretting not having a second or third stomach to sample some of the treats that were being passed around (slices of pig kidney, anyone?).  Hopefully they will feel the experience bears repeating at a later date.  I still want to make blood sausage darnit!  For now, though, you’ll have to settle for these brussels sprouts… (hey, at least there’s pancetta in there.)

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Pancetta (adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)

2 lbs brussels sprouts
8 oz peeled roasted chestnuts
about 6 oz pancetta, diced (three medium-thick slices should yield this)
¼ cup marsala
large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
a couple Tbs olive oil or butter

Notes: The original recipe stipulates boiling the brussels sprouts whole and then adding them to the pan for a quick sauté, but my sprouts were a little on the mature side so I opted for the “shredded” version.  If you have smaller, tighter sprouts, I’d maybe go with the original version as it looks a bit prettier.  However, the shredded version does have a more homey, comfort-food appeal to it.

Wash and trim the brussels sprouts.  Cut in half lengthwise and cut a small notch to remove the toughest part of the stem.  Chop each half crosswise into three or four sections to “shred” them.

In a large skillet, sauté the pancetta over medium heat with the olive oil or butter.  (The pancetta will render some fat, but the additional fat emulsifies with the marsala later to become a “sauce” of sorts.)  When the meat is starting to brown but before it dries out, add the brussels sprouts.  They will release some moisture which will enable you to deglaze the pan.

Sauté, stirring frequently, until the thickest parts of the brussels sprouts are al dente.  Stir in the chestnuts, breaking them up with your spoon or spatula.  Raise the heat a little and add the marsala, stirring well.  As soon as it bubbles away, remove from the heat.   Stir in the parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.