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Diary of a Line Cook

A Winter Hunger for Brussels Sprouts Has Its Bounds

Diary of a Line Cook

Diary of a Line Cook © Pernille Kjær

The first few nights I was really excited. It was a great dish, a winter favorite. Tight little green gems, layers furled into themselves, tiny perfect vegetables. Pale green inner leaves, tender, crunchy, nutty. They are almost always the first ticket of the evening.

“Brussels!” my sous-chef calls. “Brussels!” I answer. I heat up a cast iron, hit it with a little olive oil and throw a handful in as they pop and sputter. I chase them with a generous pinch of salt. They start to brown and crisp immediately. As soon as I see some color, I turn the heat down, give the insides a chance to catch up with the outside. That first hard heat is important though, so they stay nutty and firm and never get that soggy boiled cabbage funk. They actually smell great, and I happily nibbled one or two as we plated.

As our night picked up steam, I went through handfuls and handfuls. I switched out my 6-pan, ran for refills from the walk-in, emptied my lowboys of the stuff. “You’re working two duck, three cod, a lamb and two brussels!” “Two duck, three cod…” The ticket machine is nonstop. “Make it three brussels!” “Three brussels!”

“Make it four brussels!” Now I’m rolling my eyes. These brussels sprouts are taking over my entire stovetop; I have two huge cast irons going, and little room for anything else. Aware of my situation, my sous-chef leans over, and embarrassed, says softly, pleadingly, “Um, can you make it five brussels? And can I have the first two right now?” “Five brussels!” I scream in his face. We giggle.

He lays out the plates and I spoon on those popular little orbs. He asks me if I tasted them. No, please no, I mutter. He looks at me, I know I have to taste. I stick one in my mouth, barely able to chew it and swallow it down. It’s maybe my 40th taste of the night. “Tastes like… brussels sprouts…”

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