appetizers, mains

farmers’ market monday: balsamic-glazed Brussels sprout, cheddar + bacon pizza.

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.

Toss your shaved Brussels sprouts into a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir to coat. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.
If you haven’t already, shape your 4 dough balls into rough circles around 7-8 inches in diameter (see picture above). Place directly onto a baking sheet and poke each one a few times with a fork. Let rest until the dough gets a little bit of a poof to it (nothing big, but you’ll see the edges start to rise slightly), then brush with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 2-3 minutes, until you see your crust start to bubble a little.
Use this time to get all your toppings together in one place so you’re ready to assemble.
Remove crusts from oven and place on a trivet, because the pan is hot and you’ll need to protect the countertop. Remember when you’re working that you’re very near a hot pan. Divide 1 cup of the cheddar cheese evenly over the 4 crusts, leaving about a 1/2 inch perimeter. Next, using your hands (because it’s easier and remarkably, less messy than using utensils), place as much of the Brussels sprout mixture over top each pizza, heaping it slightly if you’d like. You may have some left over, depending on the size of your sprouts, which is okay. Next, distribute your bacon over top the sprouts, then finally, your balsamic onion/garlic mixture. Top with as much remaining cheddar cheese as you like, and place in the oven.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully after the 10-minute mark for desired doneness. When ready, your cheese will be melted and your sprouts will be nice and toasty. Remove from the oven, place on plates, and serve immedately. I cut each of mine into 4 slices, but you do it your way.
Serves four as an appetizer or as a meal alongside some sort of salad, perhaps. Soup, maybe. I like this for a light lunch.

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  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina October 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Want the pizza. Want to squeeze the wee one. AND, I want a pony.

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2012 at 11:06 am

      she wants to squeeeze you right back. And she says get a pony, and she’ll be right over. or she’ll just come over anyway.

  • Reply Katherine @ eggton October 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I love how you write out your recipes–things like “smallish” and removing some of the fat, and using the time when something is cooking to assemble other stuff. It so reflects the way people shop and cook. All those little details–they make me feel like I’m in the kitchen with you (which would be OFF. THE. HOOK!)

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

      it’s so nice to hear that my recipes are well-recieved; every time i finish one i think “seriously: could you babble any longer.” I think it comes from reading so many recipes when i was first starting to cook and hating that there wasn’t more of an explanation or strategy to it. i would screw things up, get all frustrated, and quit. I’ve learned so much since then that i don’t want anyone else to feel frustrated by my stuff.
      I can’t even wrap my MIND around being in the same kitchen with you; it’s like an alternate universe of awesome. it’s gonna happen someday.

  • Reply Emma October 23, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Heck no, I won’t cut the fat off my bacon! 😀

    Love Brussels sprouts. Have you see the most recent issue of Everyday Food? They have a nice little section of creative Brussels sprout recipes. We made the Brussels sprout, bean sprout, and shrimp stir fry last night. I’d never done something quite so non-Puristy with my sprouts, but it was delicious!

    You have the cutest kiddo:)

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

      i KNEW you would buck the system on my bacon-trimming. It’s just a me thing.

      yay for The Sprout! I haven’t picked up the Everyday Food for this month yet, but i’m going to seek it out next time i’m at the store; thanks for the heads-up! I’d love to do some different things with sprouts; that stir-fry sounds incredible. You and Brianne with your shrimpy things recently; i need to shrimp it up here soon.

      thanks; she’s pretty adorable, i agree. it’s all in the cheeks. I’m happy to say her personality is as sweet as her wee face, which i think for a 2 year old is rare.

  • Reply Brianne October 23, 2012 at 6:23 am

    My best friend was here last weekend, and we also hit up the pumpkin patch on a rare sunny autumn day. SO many people were there! Yikes. It was super fun though. They had a corn maze! I don’t care how old you are, corn mazes are a total blast. This pizza sounds scrumptious. I have been jonesing for Brussels, and they don’t have them in our grocery store yet this season! It’s driving me crazy. This is for sure going on my list of things to try with the little beauties. Like you, I was initially apprehensive about the combo, but your positive review has me thinking otherwise now. My very Irish and pizza-loving other half is sure to be into this, too.

    I’m excited about your new series! Bring on Monday Bites!

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Has it been drizzly up there too? It’s like you have to plan your pumpkin patch visit strategically; not too early, because then the pumpkins won’t last. not the day after a heavy rain (too muddy) not during rain (obviously), and not when it’s too hot (sweaty and very unpumpkin-like). It’s so unusual for me to not think about the onslaught of people ahead of time, but the Wee One super wanted pumpkins and to run around with baby animals. and I love a good corn maze! I actually have one up the street; the farm where i get my eggs from makes a corn maze every year. always spectacular.

      we only had very few Brussels in store the other day when i picked these up, so i know they’re on their way. I get sad when i don’t see them. Do try this; it’s not the same as just Brussels roasted, certainly, but it’s got it’s own really cool flavor profile to it, and you definitely can taste the sprouts in it, even with the cheddar and bacon.

      I hope Monday Bites is as fun as FMM has been! I like holding myself to something on a weekly basis, and I have so many more go-to recipes now from the FMM series, so i’ll say it’s partly a selfish undertaking. 🙂 I have a bunch of app/small plate recipes i’ve been wanting to try, so i’m excited to see how it goes.

  • Reply Ashley October 23, 2012 at 8:16 am

    You obviously are aware of my deepest food cravings, because I just bought my first bag of Brussels sprouts from TJ’s last week and desperately wanted a new way to cook them. A new way (or ways) that would not be sub-par, like the last 3 ways I tried. Which means I am most definitely trying this recipe pronto! I’m looking forward to all the Monday Bites (ha!) to come! I know they’ll be brilliantly inventive and thoughtfully written up. I agree that your style of writing recipes makes me feel like you’re there in the kitchen, giving me a heads up before I make a mistake. Thanks!

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

      I’ve decided that if you’re a food blogger, or just into food, Brussels sprouts must call to you. like from afar, and in a very deep and meaningful way. I grew up thinking no one liked them; turns out that’s not true, and i couldn’t be happier. And sprout-failure recipes? I’m so sorry to hear that…that would make me angry. 🙁
      i hope you like this; now i’m nervous! when you make this, let me know how it goes and if you like the idea of the whole cheddar/bacon/pizza thing.

      it’s so nice when you guys say lovely things about my writing. like i told Katherine, i feel like i ramble and sometimes i get embarrassed by it, but it’s me, through and through. Honestly, i think i do it because i wish you all were in the kitchen with me; maybe you could tip me off when I’M about to make a mistake. 🙂 and that’s another reason for the long-windedness: I run into difficulties/obstacles all the time when i’m making food for the blog, and so when i pass it along to you, you’re getting my solutions to those things.

  • Reply natalie October 23, 2012 at 9:20 am

    beautiful pictures, delicious recipe, and OMG HOW ADORABLE IS THE WEE ONE!?


    • Reply shannon October 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

      SHE IS SO ADORABLE IT HURTS. i know. 🙂 this post wouldn’t have been possible without that balsamic vinegar, so this one is dedicated to you. thanks so much; i love it and will be finding many ways to use it/buy more/rinse/repeat. 🙂

      monday bites can’t wait for you, either. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup October 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    2.0 thinks he doesn’t like Brussels sprouts. However, he has declared his love for cheddar and bacon time and time again. I’m thinking he will focus solely on the cheddar and bacon on these pizzas – so I can slip the Brussels sprouts in there. I LOVES ‘EM! Thus, we will both be happy.

    Also, I’ve been baking with dry active yeast, instant yeast AND fresh yeast this week. One day, I will teach you all there is to know about yeast, and you will defeat the yeast beast that lives in your nightmares…

    • Reply shannon October 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Mr. Table (also a cheddar and bacon love-declarer) doesn’t like sprouts either, and he wouldn’t try this because of it. Weird, because as I was eating my pizza, Mr. Table kept making odd noises of enjoyment and going “wow…i mean, that smells really good…” to which i asked if he would like a bite, and he wavered – i saw it happen – and then said “no thanks.” seems as though disliking Brussels sprouts is a matter of male dignity. Losers.

      Happily, you can avoid the mistake i made telling him they were in there. because if you look at it, you wouldn’t know; the cheddar and bacon totally covers them up, visually.

      OMG, so many yeast types!! I’m coming up for a private yeast training session. I don’t even know what fresh yeast IS. *does it move around*

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog October 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Oooh, I can’t wait for Monday Bites! I love stuffing my face with small things; it means I get to eat more of it. Yum!

    Your wee one is adorable, and your pizza is drool-worthy!

    • Reply shannon October 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      I’m excited too! I know you share my love for finger foods, so this should be fun. I obviously took this Monday off (no post! whoops) to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for Monday Bites.

      thank you! We drooled a little ourselves, me and the wee. 🙂

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