pan roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and creamy polenta
this dish is familiar and comforting - a welcome heartiness in contrast to the light and crisp dishes of summer. the polenta provides a creamy, rich base to the crisp, tender brussels sprouts, which are pan roasted in bacon drippings and apple cider. a garnish of pomegranate seeds brightens the dish with a tart freshness. this would be wonderful served as a main course, or as a side dish for the holidays.
**note: you will want to cook the polenta and brussels sprouts at the same time, to ensure that polenta is creamy (and not firm) when you are ready to serve. if you find the polenta is finished before the brussels sprouts, keep warm over low heat, whisking occasionally. if it does firm, you can always add a bit more cream (a little bit at a time) until it is back to your desired consistency.
for the polenta:
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (optional)
in a large stock pot, bring chicken broth up to a boil. once boiling, slowly add cornmeal, while whisking. continue to whisk until mixture has thickened (about 5 minutes). once thickened, cover and reduce heat to medium-low (slow bubble) and allow to cook, whisking occasionally for 20-25 minutes.
after 20-25 minutes, whisk in chopped thyme, butter, salt, and cream. allow to bubble for about 5-10 minutes longer. once polenta is finished, serve immediately or keep warm over low heat (whisking occasionally).
for the brussels sprouts:
about 1 pound brussels sprouts
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
4 slices thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt to taste
pomegranate seeds for garnish
add bacon to a cold pan and turn heat to medium high. cook bacon, flipping once, until golden brown. turn off heat, remove bacon, and let drain on a paper-towel lined plate. set aside and once cool, chop into pieces.
wash brussels sprouts and remove any dirty or withered outer leaves. cut larger brussels sprouts in half or quarters, while leaving small ones whole, so that the pieces are all similar in size.
remove about 2-3 tablespoons of bacon grease from pan, leaving the rest. add 1 tablespoon of butter to the reserved grease and heat pan on medium-low heat. once butter is melted, add chopped onions and allow to cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until translucent and slightly browned.
after 8 minutes, deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of the cider. increase heat to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until cider is completely reduced.
increase heat to medium-high and add brussels sprouts and mix to incorporate (making sure that sprouts are not just sitting on top of the onions). add an additional 1/4 cup cider and season with salt and chopped thyme. allow to cook, untouched for 10 minutes.
after 10 minutes, stir sprouts (the pieces that were touching the bottom of the pan should be browned and caramelized) and add the remaining 1/2 cup cider. Allow to cook again, untouched, for 10 additional minutes.
turn off heat and stir in chopped bacon.
to plate: add polenta to a large serving dish and top with brussels sprouts. garnish with pomegranate seeds and enjoy!
**note: leftover polenta will firm up and take the shape of whatever container it is placed in. if you think you will have leftovers, spread extra polenta in a shallow container before plating. once firm, polenta can be sliced and pan-seared or grilled as leftovers (delicious!)