If you have more than one child, you may understand this tale. I have two children. One is an adventurous eater, and one is not. One loves fish, and the other can’t stand it (although I don’t recall her ever tasting much of it). One adores butter and milk, while the other would prefer not to be seated at the same table with dairy products.
My highly unscientific theory is that this is nature’s way of ensuring that its offspring do not starve. If siblings have opposite tastes, then there is enough food to feed the litter. After all, how would our species advance otherwise? At least this is how I console myself as a parent and a cook.
Which brings me to Brussels sprouts. OK, I understand that you don’t have to be a child genetically wired to preserve the human race to dislike Brussels sprouts. These little crucifers have been known to offend many a mature adult. But in our home, they are enjoyed — at least by most of us. My son likes them, and, therefore, my daughter does not.
So, in a moment of inspiration and indefatigable hope, I purchased a bag of pert and pretty Brussels sprouts at the market with a plan. Instead of stir-frying or steaming them, I would cloak them in bechamel and cheese. For, while my daughter dislikes Brussels sprouts, she loves gratins. Anything cheesy, creamy and crispy is right up her alley. So, why not? I would give it a try. And you know what? She liked it. The problem is that my son, who dislikes rich and creamy food, did not.
Brussels Sprout Gratin
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the outer leaves and bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and then cut them in half (quarter if large).
Steam the Brussels sprouts until they are crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer to a large bowl.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan until lukewarm.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to form a paste and lightly toast, about 2 minutes. Carefully pour in the milk in a steady stream, whisking to incorporate. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne, and stir until smooth.
Pour the sauce over the Brussels sprouts and stir to thoroughly coat. Transfer to a 2-quart gratin dish.
Combine the Parmesan and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the Brussels sprouts. Bake in the oven until the top is golden brown and the Brussels sprouts are tender, about 25 minutes.