$10 Mondays: Brown Butter Pasta with Brussels Sprouts

I LOVE brussels sprouts. After going through the obligatory hating-all-vegetables (except corn) as a child, I finally realized somewhere around the age of 12 that these little green cabbages are in fact, delicious -- particularly when braised in butter and with chopped bacon (optional). I eat them about once a week in the winter, usually just roasting them for 15 minutes with a dash of olive oil and hot pepper flakes, but when I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I knew it would be something else. I actually made these a couple of months ago for the first time as a side dish, which was wonderful but quite rich, and so the other night I had the idea to make it into a main course by removing some of the brussels sprouts and substituting them for pasta. An excellent, and inexpensive dinner if I do say so myself. Brown Butter Pasta with Brussels Sprouts (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved and trimmed

8 oz pasta (such as fusilli or penne)

4 tablespoons butter

1 large shallot, finely sliced

3 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups chicken broth, hot

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and crushed

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch brussels sprouts until tender and bright green, 3-5 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until browning at the edges, about 5 minutes. Cook until butter begins to turn brown and gives off a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes more. Whisk in flour and cook until mixture is light brown. Whisk in stock and cook until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mix in brussels sprouts, and transfer all to a large roasting pan. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil water in a medium saucepan, and cook pasta until al dente, according to manufacturer's instructions. Drain and set aside.

Remove brussels sprouts from oven and mix in pasta. Serve immediately, garnishing with walnuts and parmesan cheese, if desired.

Saffron & Butternut Squash Risotto

On my old blog, I had a pretty basic recipe for butternut squash risotto, which is still my go-to for a cold winter's night. However, this recipe takes this simple dish over the top with the addition of pancetta (or bacon) and saffron. The smoky bacon and rich and subtle saffron add not only beautiful color, but also a depth of flavor that brings this relatively ordinary meal a very special quality. Saffron & Butternut Squash Risotto (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Family Style)

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

5 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, until the rice has absorbed it. Add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.