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Triple Umami Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry

There are dishes and then there are dishes. Dishes of the first kind are heaven for wine enthusiasts. Beef bourguignon. Steamed mussels. Smoked salmon. A big, juicy steak. Lasagna. Let’s call them the slam-dunks of food-and-wine pairing. And then, there is the second category, “the characters” so to speak – the foods and preparations that make you scratch your head over what kind of wine to serve with them. Asparagus. Miso-glazed cod. Artichoke. Anything made with beer or cider. Runny egg yolks…

Let’s call them the curveballs of food-and-wine pairing.

Some say that Brussels sprouts are the curviest of all curveballs. For decades out of favor and forever the worst enemy of picky child eaters everywhere (mainly due to horrific sulfurous taste they exhibit when abused by overcooking), Brussels sprouts have gained an equally bad reputation when it comes to wine pairing. Yes, they are nutty, and yes they are earthy, and yes they might not be every wine’s best friends, but are we ready to accept defeat here?

Absolutely not! As a matter a fact, to enjoy these tiny, densely packed balls of flavor, it's just a matter of picking the right kind of wine – and the right kind of mood backdrop. For example, during holiday season, when Brussels sprouts are roasted with bacon and hazelnuts, they love bold reds from the Rhône. When shaved into crispy, crunchy slaw and served with citrusy vinaigrette, pour a lush, tropical fruity white such as a Sauvignon Blanc. And in complex, Asian dishes, such as this Triple Umami Stir fry, Brussels sprouts simply shine if complemented with an herbaceous, off-dry German Riesling with a nice balance of sweetness and acidity (if you have a favorite Grüner Veltliner on hand, that's a great match, too).

So no excuses anymore. Get your sprouts. Pick a dish. Get the wine. And enjoy. Because that’s what wines are for.

Triple Umami Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry with Cashews (serves 4)

  • 14 oz Brussels sprouts
  • 1 to 3 red bird’s-eye chilies, thinly sliced, depending on your heat preference
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil suitable for frying

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the cashews in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the oven. Roast the cashews for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure you stir the cashews every five minutes or so to prevent them from burning. Remove the cashews from the oven when they are golden, then let them cool completely.

  1. Wash the Brussels sprouts and dry them carefully. Shred or cut the Brussels sprouts into a superfine slaw. (I highly recommend cutting by hand, because it will produce the finest slaw possible, which is a must for this dish. It will take about 15 minutes of knife work for one pound of Brussels sprouts.)

  1. In a small bowl, mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. I call this the triple umami sauce.

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw in the garlic and chilies and stir-fry quickly for about 30 seconds, until garlic is golden and fragrant. Add in the Brussels sprouts and stir-fry for about 8 minutes. Stir the sprouts constantly to prevent them from sticking to the pan. The sprouts are done when they are in between soft and crispy and still bright in color. Add in the umami sauce and stir-fry for another minute until the Brussels sprouts are evenly coated.

  1. Remove from heat, throw in the cashews, mix and serve over steamed white rice.