Monday, March 1, 2010

linguine with brussels sprouts barigoule: a conversion story

The first, and most important, thing you need to know about this dish is that after he finished his bowl my husband, the Brussels-sprouts hater, turned to me and said, "Those were the best Brussels sprouts I've ever had." And he didn't mean "Well, they were good...for Brussels sprouts," either. He meant he really enjoyed them.

The second thing you need to know about the dish is that the recipe, from the March 2009 issue of Gourmet (yup, it's that time again--this is my Gourmet, Unbound submission for this month), will make you say, "What the--?" Probably several times. After struggling through cooking it, I wished I'd read up more on the Barigoule preparation beforehand, so that I would have understood better what I was aiming for.

Except that there's not much available online about what Barigoule means. As best I can sleuth out, it's a Provencal preparation, usually applied to artichokes, and its defining characteristic is the presence of a kind of orange mushroom--the mushroom is called "barigoule" in the Provencal dialect, and hence the name of the dish.

Except, of course, there aren't any mushrooms in the Brussels sprouts recipe. So that background is no help at all.

Here, then, is what I wish I'd known before I started cooking: When you glance at the ingredients and technique, you might think, "Oh, okay, pasta tossed with braised vegetables. Sounds familiar." But as you actually read through the recipe it's likely to sound less and less familiar. And when you get to the part where you are supposed to add four cups of water to the cabbage you might even say, "Oh ho, Gourmet magazine, do you think I don't remember how you told me to add way too much water to those braised turnips recently? I'm not going to be fooled by you again!" You might even decide that since cabbage contains a lot of water you can just braise it in its own juices and so you're not going to add any water at all.

And then you might scorch the cabbage.

But do not fear! Even if you do scorch the cabbage the final dish will still be delicious. Don't ask me how I know.

The thing is, you aren't making braised vegetables tossed with pasta. What you are really making is a kind of a soup. Sauteed leeks, garlic, and Savoy cabbage--like a variation on a mirepoix--form the base of a white wine and lemon broth. The Brussels sprouts are added just at the end of cooking, so that they stay bright-green and a little bit crisp. Meanwhile you'll cook pasta until it is not quite done, then combine it and some of its cooking water with the vegetables--there you'll simmer the pasta the rest of the way to al dente. The technique lets the broth flavor the pasta, and the pasta thicken the broth slightly. It's quite brilliant, once you grasp what the recipe is driving at.

The dish is finished with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese, and please don't skip this part. That little bit of richness just makes the dish. (And about now you're probably realizing that this recipe has much in common, flavor-wise, with Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup--and we all know how fantastic that stuff is, right?)

My husband did have one quibble with the recipe--he wanted a greater proportion of vegetables to pasta. That's right: he wanted more Brussels sprouts. I can't quite believe it myself. But I think he's right. Especially because if you have leftovers the pasta will sit and soak up all the broth while you're eating, and then you're left with no broth for the next day. The Brussels sprouts and broth, sans pasta, would also be good ladled over a thick piece of crusty bread that has been rubbed with garlic, piled high with grated Parmesan, and run under the broiler. You could even add a poached egg on top. What? How did you know I was going to say that?

Anyway, one way or another, I recommend giving it a try.

Linguine with Brussels Sprouts Barigoule
Adapted from Gourmet magazine

2 leeks
A small head of Savoy cabbage (about 1/2-3/4 lb.)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
4 cloves garlic
2/3 Cup dry white wine
4 Cups water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, divide
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts
3/4 lb dried linguine (I used spaghetti, which was fine, but it really would be better with a wider noodle. And, as mentioned, I'd cut this down to maybe 1/2 lb next time.)
1/4 C chopped parsley
Plenty of Parmesan cheese

Wash the leeks and thinly slice the white and pale green parts. Quarter the cabbage, core it, and slice it thinly.

Heat the olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the butter in a heavy, 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, cabbage, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the garlic. Then press the garlic into the pan and cook, stirring, for another minute or so. Add the wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp thyme, and the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Cover and simmer briskly until the cabbage is very tender and the liquid has reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

When the cabbage begins to simmer, put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

While the cabbage cooks, wash the Brussels sprouts, trim the stems, and pull off any discolored leaves. Quarter the Brussels sprouts lengthwise.

When the cabbage is just about done, add the pasta to the boiling water. Then add the Brussels sprouts to the broth with the cabbage and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the sprouts are bright-green and slightly tender.

When the pasta is not quite al dente, remove and reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Transfer the vegetables to the pasta pot, and then return the pasta and cooking water to it, along with the remaining 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the pasta is done.

Off the heat, stir in the parsley and remaining 1/2 tsp thyme. Serve in shallow bowls with some of the broth. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese over each serving. 

4 to 6 servings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced. Sounds like a fabulous recipe, but I know that Brussels are yummy. So does my daughter. We used to send her to daycare with Brussels in her lunch. Yes, my then 18 month old gobbled them up. Funny kid.