The first time I made this was years ago, at a very different time in my life. It was a time in which I would consider individually pulling leaves off of Brussels sprouts, as the original recipe recommends. It was a time in which I expected my opinion of individually pulling leaves off of Brussels sprouts to be: tedious, but not too terribly bad, and ultimately worth it. It was a time before I had kids.
And you know what? Even then, it was too tedious. Even then, I didn’t actually think it was worth it.
I will admit that it makes a nice presentation, but you know what else makes a nice presentation? Bacon crumbles. Let’s stick with that and just give our sprouts a quick slice. Heck, push them through the slicing blade of your food processor if you want. That salad will taste just as good.
Bacon and Brussels sprouts are a common combination, and for good reason; the rich and flavorful bacon is a nice foil to the green vegetables. The hazelnuts add some crunch, and the dressing is just a bit tart, just a bit sweet from the honey. It might not be worth pulling each leaf off of a bunch of little sprouts, but it’s certainly worth making at any stage in life.
The original recipe calls for crushing the nuts under a skillet, which I thought was an odd method to call for until I tried using a knife and ended up chasing hazelnuts rolling all over the cutting board and counter. Crushing doesn’t turn them into powder or paste, it just breaks them into smaller pieces.
I prefer using a nonstick skillet for this. A regular skillet works, but you’ll end up leaving lots of flavorful brown bits behind in the pan.
3 ounces bacon (2-3 slices, depending on thickness)
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sherry (or red wine) vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved through the stem and then sliced crosswise
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, roughly chopped or crushed with a skillet
1. Place the bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat; cover and cook until it’s browned and crisp, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes. While the bacon cooks, add the shallot, honey, sherry vinegar, oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pinch of black pepper to a large bowl. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour 1 tablespoon of bacon fat into the bowl with the dressing ingredients. Leave approximately ½ tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet; discard the remaining fat. Crumble or coarsely chop the bacon.
2. Heat the skillet with the bacon fat over high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring constantly, until bright green and slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the dressing. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the dressing; top with bacon and hazelnuts. Serve immediately.
My requirements for the perfect tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes were very specific – the same issues that everyone has with removing enough liquid from the tomatoes without cooking away all the fresh flavor that makes them so special, plus one more – I did not want to peel the tomatoes. I hate peeling tomatoes. I hate using a vegetable peeler to peel them, and I hate cutting an X into the bottom of each one, then boiling them, then dipping them in cold water, and then pulling the peels off. I cooked sixteen pounds of tomatoes into this batch of sauce, which was well over fifty tomatoes. I do not want to individually peel fifty tomatoes.
This recipe satisfies all of those requirements, with an added bonus – you don’t even have to core the tomatoes. The tomatoes, very roughly chopped, are cooked down slightly to soften them, then pressed through a food mill – the mill strains out the seeds, cores, and peels. For a batch this large, it’s still a somewhat tedious process, but nothing compared to the prospect of coring and peeling each tomato individually.
From there, the fresh tomato puree is divided into three portions – one portion is simmered on the stovetop with aromatics until it reaches a sauce consistency. Another is kept fresh, with no cooking at all. If just these two portions were combined, the resulting sauce would be too liquidy, so the final portion is transferred to a baking pan and roasted until it’s thick and slightly caramelized.
These three mixtures each have something different to offer to the final sauce, and the combination of them makes a sauce with the best that tomatoes have to offer in any form – the bright summeriness of uncooked tomatoes, the deep savoriness of roasted tomatoes. It’s thick enough for anything you’d normally use tomato sauce for – meatballs and spaghetti like we did here, pizza, lasagna. All that, and the only real work you have to do is quarter the tomatoes and push them through a food mill. This has become my summer staple, with extra in the freezer to hoard as long as I can stand.
The original recipe starts with 25 pounds of tomatoes. The largest batch I’ve made was 16 pounds, but I’ve also made much smaller batches with just a handful of tomatoes. I’ve based my recipe on ten pounds because it’s a nice round number.
While the recipe recommends any variety of tomato, I’d be hesitant to use all cherry tomatoes, which could make the sauce too sweet. Also, wetter variety of tomatoes will take longer to reduce to a sauce or paste consistency.
If you’re scaling this recipe up or down, put about 40% of the puree in the oven, leave 10% uncooked, and cook the remaining 50% on the stove.
Makes about 1 quart of sauce, although it will depend on the type(s) of tomatoes used
10 pounds tomatoes, any variety, quartered, or halved if small
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 small tomato plant cutting with about 5 leaves attached (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large (7- or 8-quart) stockpot over medium heat, cook the tomatoes, covered, until they begin to soften and release their liquid. (You may need to do this in multiple batches, depending on the size of your largest pot and the size of the batch you’re making.) Transfer the tomatoes to a food mill on the finest setting set over a large bowl and press the tomatoes through. Discard the skins and seeds that accumulate in the food mill.
2. Spray two 9-by-13-inch (or similarly sized) baking pans with cooking spray (or grease lightly with olive oil). Pour 3½ cups of tomato puree into each of the pans. Transfer the pans to the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the puree has reduced to a paste and leaves a clean trail when a spatula is dragged through it, 2 to 4 hours.
3. Pour another 1½ cups of tomato puree into a small container. Set aside.
4. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion and a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining tomato puree and cook, stirring very occasionally, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 1 to 2 hours. Remove from the heat, add the basil and tomato leaves (if using) and set aside for about 5 minutes. Remove the basil and tomato leaves and discard them.
5. Combine the three mixtures, and add salt to taste. Serve, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze.
In addition to all the other excitement around here, we found out the day that we closed on our new house that I’m pregnant. I’m so relieved that, at over four months along now, I’m past the stage of being tired all the time. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout this pregnancy? My desire for cold, creamy desserts.
Ice cream isn’t usually a craving of mine, so it’s been fun to take this opportunity to play with recipes that wouldn’t normally catch my eye. This one seemed worth the extra effort even back when dragging myself off the couch took all of my limited energy. But it certainly has some tedious steps. Even pulling all the stems out of 3½ pounds of cherries takes a while. Then you just throw the chreries in the oven with some sugar, and once they’re soft and squishy, you squeeze the pits out – which is faster than pitting fresh cherries even with a pitter, but still slow.
But the worst is pushing the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Based on the flecks of solid fruit in the picture on Serious Eats, compared to my smooth un-flecked custard, I believe my strainer is finer-mesh than Stella’s, which could be why straining was such an arduous, frustrating task. Next time I’ll just use my food mill on its finest setting – it’s not nearly as fine as my strainer, but it’ll be good enough, I expect.
I would say it was worth the effort in the end, because this ice cream is intensely cherry-y. It’s so fruity that it almost tastes more like sherbet than cream-filled ice cream. It was the perfect treat at the end of a work- and toddler-filled day, when I could sit down with a book, a mug of tea, and a scoop of ice cream and then not move for at least an hour.
I used the leftover cherry solids in sweet rolls, substituting it for the cinnamon-sugar mixture in this recipe.
To get the amount of strained cherry juice required by the recipe, I had to return the cherry pulp to the saucepan, add water, heat it up, then strain again. And again. And again. Don’t use your finest-mesh strainer for this. I’ll try a food mill on its finest setting next time.
3½ pounds (56 ounces; about 10 cups) whole cherries, washed and stemmed but not pitted
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1¾ cups (14 ounces) heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the cherries and sugar in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are wilted and soft, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly, then use your fingers to pull the cherries apart and remove the pits. Transfer the cherry pits to a medium saucepan. Transfer the pitted cherries to a food processor bowl. Leave the cherry juice in the skillet.
2. Add the heavy cream to the saucepan with the cherry pits. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to steep.
3. Pulse the cherries in the food processor until minced but not pureed. Transfer them back to the skillet with the juice. Heat the cherries and juice over medium heat; reduce the heat to retain a simmer and cook until jammy, about 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (see note). You should have 20 ounces of cherry juice. Discard the cherry solids or reserve for another use (stored in the refrigerator, they can be kept for up to three weeks and used like jam).
4. Strain the cream into the same container as the cherry juice; discard the pits. Stir in the salt and the lemon juice. Chill the mixture until it is 40 degrees, either for several hours in the refrigerator or more quickly by setting the bowl of custard inside a larger bowl filled with ice water.
5. Churn the custard in a prepared ice cream maker until it’s the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, about 25 minutes. Immediately transfer to a chilled container. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.