This recipe took a roundabout path to arrive here—halfway around the world and back in time. This spring, while all of his other relatives were in lockdown in the United States, one of my nephews was nearing the end of a military assignment in Geongzhu, South Korea. He loved the food there, with good reason. It’s where you can dine like royalty with recipes handed down for centuries, according to Eater.
That article made me want to make a South Korean dish, and given what was on hand at the time, I made some classic South Korean meatballs—salty, sweet, spicy, yum! This led me to remember another meatball dish I used to take to potlucks decades ago. I had lost the recipe, but I remembered it had peanuts and an interesting sauce made with grape jelly and mustard.
Eventually I recovered it from my decidedly non-eidetic memory, in all likelihood not quite in its original form—but quite tasty nonetheless. I wondered if it could be styled as a vegetarian side dish/rice bowl … and this is what led me to make Brussels Sprouts with Peanut Sauce.
I make this dish without adding any spicy heat, but feel free to dial up the heat with hot pepper if you want to. I suggest adding a pepper or pepper sauce that has a fairly neutral flavor. Dear, sweet husband sprinkled on red pepper flakes.
You’ll want to use a shallow pan with a lid while cooking the sprouts, because you need to both sauté and steam the sprouts. Cook the sprouts until they are tender on the outside and a little firm at the center. If you don’t cook them long enough, they will be too hard and crunchy. Cook them too long, and they will be too mushy or browned.
Meat lovers: Why not make meatballs? Take the same recipe, replace with 1 lb ground beef, add an egg and about 1/4 C of bread crumbs. You could use them in lieu of or in addition to the sprouts. (Hey, if you don’t have the time or energy—or egg and breadcrumbs—just brown the meat with the other ingredients. That would work fine, too.)
Brussels Sprouts with Peanut Sauce is a low sodium, gluten-free, vegetarian dish you can eat without (too much) guilt. For ease, you can serve it over rice or a gluten-free grain as a one-bowl meal. I recommend Basmati rice, because the nutty flavor of the rice goes very well with the peanut sauce. For my rice, I add a few peppercorns and cilantro seeds and a clove of minced garlic to the pot infuse flavor, and it complements the meal well.
“It’s the struggle that refines them,” he explained, “the challenge. Give them too much water, sunshine, and fertile soil and they grow fat and tasteless, like a Concord grape, appetizing only when saturated with sugar and made into jelly. Or they wither and die of boredom. Like people. The best ones are survivors. Stripped of chaff, refined by struggle and hardship, they’re rendered complex and potent by their very endurance and ability to thrive in spite of deprivation.”—J.T. Geissinger
Prep time: about 45 minutes
Yields: about 3 cups
1 lb Brussels sprouts (about 3 C halved)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 yellow or white onion, minced
1/3 C blanched, unsalted peanuts, chopped
1-2 TBSP grapeseed or other neutral oil
1/4 C rice wine (can sub water)
dash soy sauce (optional)
1/4 C grape jelly
1/4 C yellow mustard
1/4 C smooth peanut butter
Optional: rice wine or water, to thin sauce
Trim bottom of Brussels sprouts and chop in half lengthwise. Mince garlic and onion. Chop peanuts to medium-sized chunks.
Place oil in pan and heat to medium.
Add onion and cook until onion becomes translucent.
Add garlic and peanuts and stir well.
When garlic aroma releases, add Brussels sprouts and sauté until sprouts’ outer leaves soften.
Add 1/4 rice wine or water to release any browned bits and aid in steaming of sprouts.
Add a dash of soy sauce if desired.
Turn heat to low, cover and simmer about 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While sprouts simmer, make the sauce.
In small pan combine jelly, mustard and peanut butter. Heat to medium-low, stirring frequently, until jelly disintegrates. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little rice wine or water, a teaspoon at a time until desired thickness is reached. The sauce should not be runny, but it should fairly easily roll off a spoon. Remove from heat.
When Brussels sprouts reach the desired consistency, they are ready to serve. Generously drizzle sauce over individual servings.
Serve as a side or on a bed of rice (I recommend Basmati). This would be good with garlicky meatballs or chicken skewers, using this sauce in lieu of a satay sauce. An egg drop soup might be a nice starter for the meal, too.