Brussels is the home of the European Community, notable for its efforts to standardize and homogenize Europe. It also has the world headquarters for NATO but I didn’t want to recipe that. I have united the products of several European countries into a single currency; Belgium (in name only), France, Switzerland and Spain. It requires almost as many pots, pans and plates to prepare as there are countries in Europe. I made an untraditional choice of raclette for the mornay sauce because I think its flavor complements the Brussels sprouts and the pear, and also because it melts well in the béchamel. —pierino
all purpose flour
raclette cheese grated on the large holes of a box grater
dry white wine at room temperature
salt and pepper
Brussels sprouts, as small as you can find. If possible, look for ones no larger than your thumbnail
comice pears, peeled, cored, and diced
bread crumbs (panko)
clarified butter for the baking dish and for topping the gratin
salt and ground pepper
In This Recipe
In a small pan heat the milk to a simmer
In a sauce pan melt the butter and when nice and hot slowly stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. You are making a roux in this step. It should remain rather pale in color. Now grab a whisk and slowly add the hot milk. Break up any lumps by whisking continuously. Add grated nutmeg, pepper and salt.
Over low heat continue to simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally until the flour has lost its starchy taste. Whisk in the wine, followed by the cheese. The sauce should be smooth and not stringy. Taste for seasoning and cover off heat until ready to use.
In a small dry, hot skillet toss the almonds until just lightly browned. Set aside in a small bowl
Peel any loose or unattractive leaves from the Brussels sprouts, make a notch in the stem end, and toss into a pot of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes. They should be just fork tender, and the color should become a rich emerald. Immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice cold water.
Meanwhile, peel and core the comice pears, dice them and place in a bowl. Give all generous squeeze of lemon juice so that they don’t turn brown (not that it matters) until ready to use.
Drain the Brussels sprouts thoroughly and dry as well as possible with paper towels. Cut into halves or quarters depending on size. If you can find the really small ones, you should leave those whole.
In a small hot skillet melt 1 oz butter and lightly color the diced pear. Set aside. Butter bottom and all sides of a baking dish of sufficient capacity (see note below). On the bottom of the dish spread a layer of about 1/3 of the sauce. Arrange the 2/3 of the Brussels sprouts on the bottom but leave some spaces all over for the pears which you will add next. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 400?.
Top with most of the remaining mornay sauce. Hold some back just in case.
Scatter toasted almonds all over the top, followed by the bread crumbs. Add about three knobs of butter on top of everything. Place in your hot oven for about 12 minutes, or until brown and bubbly. Please note that no two ovens are calibrated exactly the same. Know your oven.
Remove from the oven. If desired at this point you can crank it up to broil and finish under the broiler for about one minute or so.
Note to cook. If you prefer you can bake this in individual gratin dishes, in which case you will probably need additional sauce.