I recently went on a girls weekend to Austin, Texas. I could go on and on about the virtues of girls weekends–I swear they make me a better person–but I am all excited about Austin. What a town! The people (ma’am, they are friendly), the scenery (gorgeous lake speckled with aesthetically pleasing paddle boarders and kayakers), the shopping (everything from cowboy boots to cute boutiques) and THE FOOD (from food trucks to top rated restaurants, each bite was better than the next). Keep Austin Weird.
We had so many memorable dishes that there will be multiple Austin posts here on “Musings of a Sly Rooster” but I have to start with the Brussels Sprouts at Uchiko. If you haven’t heard of Uchiko, maybe you’ve heard of Uchi, the original restaurant by Tyson Cole? Or, if you’re not a chef-stalker like me, Cole may just not be on your radar. I’ll say that no trip to Austin would be complete without a visit to either Uchi or Uchiko. Innovative Japanese at its finest. But with all the great fish we had that night, the Brussels sprouts were the stuff of which dreams are made.
A quick Internet search unearthed Cole’s recipe for what I’ve learned is Uchiko’s signature dish. I went in knowing that I would want to roast my sprouts rather than flash frying but what I didn’t realize was that there would be 21 ingredients with which to contend. For a one-off dish, I’m willing to take the plunge but these Brussels sprouts were so phenomenal, I want them in my repertoire. That meant I needed to come close to replicating the flavor with a pared down approach.
I’m proud to say that the resulting recipe comes pretty darn close to the original and achieved greatness with my friend Christine’s suggestion of a squeeze of lemon at the finish. These sprouts would make an excellent side to any meat, chicken or fish and are even an acceptable finger food among friends. I beg even the Brussels Sprout Haters out there, to give these a try–they’ll make you a believer. Finger lickin’ good.
- 1 lb Brussels sprouts
- 3 Tbls grapeseed oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 3 Tbls sugar
- 1/2 cup very hot water
- 3 Tbls Asian fish sauce
- 3 Tbls rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbls fresh lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning
- 1 Tbls minced shallot
- 1 heaping tsp Sriracha
- 1 tsp minced lemongrass
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp Korean chili powder (can substitute red pepper flakes)
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat over to 400F. Trim the sprouts by cutting off the stem and then cutting them in half. Rinse sprouts under cold water and while drying with a clean towel, rough them up a bit, loosening some leaves which will later turn into crispy bits.
- Place sprouts in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with grapeseed oil. Toss to coat and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Bake for around 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until crispy and tender. The loose leaves should be blackened, the outer leaves dark brown and the sprouts, browned.
- Meanwhile, place sugar in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until sugar is melted and amber-colored. Add 1/2 cup of very hot water (mixture will bubble) and stir until carmelized sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in fish sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, Sriracha, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili powder and black pepper. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for around 5 minutes until mixture reduces. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl or jar (alternatively, you could puree mixture in a blender). Set aside.
- When sprouts are sufficiently browned, transfer to a bowl and toss with prepared sauce. Return the dressed sprouts to the baking sheet and broil for a couple of minutes (to dry sprouts slightly). Watch carefully to avoid charring. Transfer sprouts to a serving bowl and finish with a generous squeeze of lemon before serving.