A few weeks ago while having dinner at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Stone Park Cafe, my husband and I shared one of those rare and wonderful dishes that grabs hold of your taste buds and doesn't let go. It was simplicity itself: delicately shaved raw Brussels sprouts with wisps of red onion, a light, lemony dressing spiked generously with whole grain mustard, and a generous hit of tangy Pecorino. I immediately declared that I would try and replicate it at home, and this was met with great enthusiasm by my husband.
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It pains me to admit that with my first attempt I couldn't resist the urge to take an ill-advised shortcut. The salad wasn't the only thing on the menu that night, and I was feeling a little harried, so instead of doing what I should have done and using a mandoline to shave the sprouts into perfect, dainty shards, I instead dumped the them into the food processor and pulsed until they resembled coarse green sawdust. Mistake.
Although I had taken the time to fiddle with the dressing, adding some honey to soften the acid from the lemon and mustard, and had soaked my onion slices in water to soften their sting, the texture of the resulting salad was all wrong. It felt a little like chewing on mulch -- tasty mulch, but mulch nonetheless.
The second time around, I took the extra few minutes to shave the sprouts properly, one at a time, using a mandoline. Yes, it takes a little longer -- and I wouldn't recommend making this salad for more than six people. But it's so worth it. I'd serve this as a first course, with a nice, crisp white like Gruner Veltliner.
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Red Onion, Lemon and Pecorino
1/2 small red onion
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp honey
2 tsp whole grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups Brussels sprouts (use larger sprouts if possible)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano
1. Soak the onion slices in a small bowl of cold water for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.
3. Trim all of the Brussels sprouts, cutting off any bruised outer leaves and slicing off a good portion of the hard root end. Using a mandoline, shave the sprouts one at a time. When you're done, use your fingers to gently separate the leaves so that the shredded sprouts resemble a very fine slaw.
4. Put the sprouts in a serving bowl and toss gently with the onions (which you've now drained) and the dressing. Fold in the pecorino, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately, before it starts to wilt!
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).