This weekend was filled with things which perplexed me. What cookies would be mood-appropriate for a very solemn, sedate gathering? Why does my love for Brussels sprouts run so deep? Why did I head to the pumpkin patch on the very same day that everyone else had the same idea? What am I going to do when basically all the farmers’ markets close down for the winter season and I’m left with “to be determined” Mondays? Big thoughts, people; big thoughts.
First, I’m happy to announce that even as the farmers’ markets close for the season, I have determined what will replace the Farmers’ Market Monday series on the blog; I hope you like it. It’s entitled “Monday Bites,” and it will be a collection of appetizers, small plates, and general munchie-ness which will get us through all sorts of holidays, parties, and football games. Certainly there will be plenty of sugar-festing throughout the next few months, so it will be nice to use Mondays as a time for a little bit of savory (and maybe sometimes sweet) snacking.
What inspired Monday Bites? A combination of things. I can feel myself gravitating towards cookbooks with appetizer-ish items, because I enjoy a good finger food for parties, and there are plenty of parties headed our way. Also, I was more than a little stoked about making those individual pizzas for you last week; so much so that I made you another one today. This time, I turned a dish I’ve been wanting to make into a pizza, and it involves Brussels sprouts.
Have you ever thought about how delicious Brussels sprouts would be on a pizza? I have. Many times. Because although I consider myself a Sprout Purist – meaning mostly my favorite preparation for them involves little more than olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper – I admire sprouts for their ability to taste outstanding no matter what you pair them with. Maple syrup and walnuts, vanilla and pecans, pomegranate seeds, a little balsamic and parmesan; you can do whatever you like to them and they always come out perfect.
I’ve been looking at an Andrew Carmellini recipe in his American Flavor Cookbook for cheddar and bacon version for a while now, and with some trepidation. Melty cheddar cheese? Really? Mr. Carmellini, I totally trust you, but I’m not about to drown my sprouts in something without good reason. And I’m not a huge bacon person either; I know some of you are clutching your heart at the mere thought of that (although, to be fair, there may be other reasons for clutching your heart than anguish alone), and I have nothing against it, but I don’t crave it.
Then Natalie at Wee Eats sent me an awesome birthday present filled with lots of things I shouldn’t have access to, like cookie-filled chocolate bars and Tahitian vanilla caramels, but she also sent me something I definitely should have: 12-year aged balsamic vinegar from Sur La Table. And I knew I needed to start using it as quickly as possible on food. And just like that, it all came together in my head. Rather than make you just Brussels sprouts with bacon and cheddar, I would make you individual pizzas smothered in balsamic-glazed shaved sprouts, bacon, cheddar, and balsamic onions.
Was I sure this would work? No. Did it work? Absolutely yes it did, and I’m proud to say that even if you’re a Sprout Purist like I am, you will LOVE THIS LITTLE PIZZA. I suppose I never thought about it, but bacon and cheddar work very well with balsamic and sprouts; inexplicably, my kitchen smelled like an Irish pub while I was cooking. You get the cabbage-yness from the sprouts really comes through here, and the balsamic isn’t at all overpowering; I think it works beautifully in melding everything together. Instead of just throwing everything on this dry and hoping for the best, I tossed the sprouts in balsamic and olive oil just to lightly coat them. Onions have a tendency to dry out on pizza, so I softened them in the pan I cooked the bacon in, which lightly coated them in some protective bacon fat and added a little flavor. Adding some straight balsamic after they cooked gives the pizza that much more balsamic oomph. And who doesn’t want balsamic oomph on a pizza.
Love Brussels sprouts like I do? Try this. Don’t love them? Try it with your sprout-loving friends; no one will be disappointed.
As for my other burning questions, I did decide on some cookie winners for a sedate cookie tray, and I’ll be sharing those with you soon. I still don’t know why I picked the only sunny Sunday we’ve had in October to head to the pumpkin patch. Fortunately, after a little traffic navigation, I ended up with a few pumpkins and some long-overdue photos of the Wee One…
…who also took her first ride on a tiny pony.
I’m so proud of her. My genetics are strong in the Wee One, and we tend to be a nervous and overthinking bunch; we hesitate, we like a good plan in place before beginning something, we are neurotic about new things. She was nothing but excited about this pony.
Adapted/loosely based on last week’s caramelized onion + apple pizzas and inspired by a recipe for Brussels sprouts with cheddar and bacon in American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini. It’s safe to say I’m inspired by every single recipe in this cookbook. Special thanks to Natalie at Wee Eats for introducing me to the wonder that is 12-year aged balsamic vinegar from Sur La Table. No wonder it’s a bestseller.
Individual Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprout, Cheddar + Bacon Pizzas
(and yes, this makes 4 individual pizzas, but feel free to make 1 big one if you’d like.)
- 1 store-bought pizza dough (one which makes a full-size/14-inch or so pizza, divided evenly into 4 balls
- 10-12 smallish (they are more tender) Brussels sprouts, base trimmed, thrown in food processor with the slicer attachment (the one you would use to slice things like potatoes or cucumbers with)
- 3-4 small shallots, thinly sliced into rings
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 6 strips thick-sliced bacon, some of the fatty edge removed, chopped into small pieces*
- 1 3/4 cup fresh grated sharp cheddar cheese (and please; grate your cheese from a block as opposed to buying the pre-grated sort. It’s never the same, trust me.)
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
*This is purely the way I do bacon, and it is optional; I remove some of the fatty side of the bacon to keep that bacony flavor but elminate over-greasiness. If you choose to use the entire bacon strip, you may want to taper your amount back to 4 strips total. Completely up to you.
First, read the directions on your pizza dough package and see where it fits in to your timeline. Mine had it sitting on the counter resting for 30 minutes prior to rolling out, so I began mine mid-onion carmelizing. Although most store-bought pizza dough I’ve seen bears similar instructions, I don’t want to screw you up. As for the bake temperature, use mine; I altered it from the package and it worked very well.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook your bacon until just beginning to crisp up, about 7-10 minutes, depending on your bacon and what your version of “medium” is. You’re wanting to leave some wiggle room so your bacon crisps up fully in the oven. Remove from pan (and do not rinse pan out; you’ll use it for your onions) and set bacon on paper towels to drain oil off.
In the bacon pan, cook your shallots over medium heat until they are coated in the leftover bacon fat and translucent, about 3 minutes or so. Add your garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn it, about 20 seconds. Remove from the heat and place mixture in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and stir to coat. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 425˚F and position your rack on the lowest rungs. You’ll want to get out a half, unlipped sheet pan.