VPR Cafe: Postcard From Portland, Oregon

Oct 4, 2013

"Dirty fries" with pork scraps and marinated peppers at Lardo, a restaurant in Portland, Oregon
Credit Candace Page

Sunday, October 6, 2013, 10:45a.m.  Candace Page, a regular contributor to The VPR Cafe, is in Portland, Oregon visiting family.  Today she contrasts the food, restaurants and atmosphere of Portland to Vermont.  Food Trucks, ethnic restaurants, and sidewalk gardens are in abundance - but alas - no cider donuts and Candy finds that the apples just don't measure up.

The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with the Burlington Free Press, where Candy writes for the Savorvore Section.

The VPR Cafe is made possible through the support of The Kitchen Store at J.K. Adams, in Dorset, Vermont and TheKitchenStoreOnline.com.

Toro Bravo Brussels Sprouts With bacon, Sherry and Cream
(Candace Page note: I swooned over this dish the first time we dined at Toro Bravo, the Portland, Oregon restaurant. Then I spent four years trying to replicate it in my own kitchen. Fortunately, Toro Bravo will publish a cookbook this month, and I found the recipe in an advance copy. The key here is to deconstruct the sprouts, separating them into leaves. This requires a little work – I recommend a comfortable chair and a good DVD – but the results entirely justify the extra time. Separated into leaves, sautéed and sauced, Brussels sprouts become a whole different vegetable. A final thought: Before I had the official recipe, I made a stripped-down version that is nearly as good, by simply sautéing the sprout leaves, then adding previously crisped bacon bits, a bit of sherry and a little cream.)

For the Sherry Cream Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup double Applewood-smoked bacon, diced (cheaper ends and pieces are great for this)
½ yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons sherry
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper
5 sage leaves, rolled and sliced thinly into a chiffonade
For the Brussels Sprouts
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper
To prepare the sauce:
Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the bacon, and sauté until nicely browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the diced onion to the 
pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about
 5 minutes.
Add the sherry to deglaze the pan and cook for 1 minute, until it has reduced by about half. Add the cream, salt, and pepper, bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
To complete the dish:
(Candace Page note: I don’t own a melon baller and find a sharp paring knife works just fine at removing the core of each sprout).
Using a melon baller, scoop out the core of each Brussels sprout, taking care to leave as much leaf behind as possible. The core is naturally more bitter, because flavors intensify in that area, so we like to remove it. Break apart the leaves of the Brussels in a large bowl.
Place a large sauté pan (14 inches wide) or 2 medium sauté pans over high heat. Add the butter and olive oil and cook until the butter releases most of its water and begins to brown.
Add all of the brussels sprout leaves in a fairly even layer in the pan. You should hear loud crackling at the beginning. Resist the urge to stir until the Brussels have been in the pan for about
 a minute. After that initial stir, you’ll still want to be pretty conservative with the stirring— stirring very occasionally so that the Brussels wilt, release their water, and brown—for about 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper.
Stir the sauce into the sprouts in the pan and simmer for a couple minutes, until the they are well coated but the sauce has cooked down and is no longer wet. (Candace Page note:  The sauce should all but disappear). Season to taste and serve.
*Recipe from Toro Bravo, by John Graham and Liz Crain, to be published later this month by McSweeney's, San Francisco