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  • Brussels sprouts fit for a movie star

  • A Bend-area chef, cooking at an exclusive Central Oregon resort, knocked Reese Witherspoon's socks off with a tasty take on Brussels sprouts a few weeks ago.
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  • A Bend-area chef, cooking at an exclusive Central Oregon resort, knocked Reese Witherspoon's socks off with a tasty take on Brussels sprouts a few weeks ago.
    Witherspoon, who's been hopping around Southern and Central Oregon filming scenes for her next film, "Wild," is a careful eater, reported my chef friend who never actually met Witherspoon but handed freshly prepared meals over to "her peeps" each evening. One night the Hollywood star's request was for fish and vegetables, so said-chef produced a grilled king salmon, herbed polenta and Brussels sprouts.
    "The next night," said the chef, "she requested a double order of the Brussels sprouts," stating that they were incredible.
    When I asked my Chef-Who-Will-Remain-Nameless out of respect for Witherspoon's privacy, how those amazing Brussels sprouts are prepared at the mystery resort, here's what she/he had to say:
    "Really quite basic, Jan. I cut the Brussels sprouts in half and wedge out the core if it seems too thick. Then I toss them in the deep fryer until vibrant green and golden-brown around the edges. Next, I toss them with a bit of kosher salt, pepper and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
    "I think it's better than popcorn."
    Witherspoon apparently agrees.
    "At home," said my chef friend, "without deep-fryer access, I start with the same trimming prep, then I chop raw bacon into small dice and cook it in a saute pan. Once browned, I remove it and wipe out most of the bacon grease with a paper towel, then saute a chopped shallot in the pan, along with the Brussels sprouts, cut sides down, until they're caramelized (on the cut sides).
    "If the sprouts are huge (that would be bigger than 11/2 inches in diameter), I cover the pan with a lid, after caramelization has occurred, to steam until tender. Then I add the bacon back to the skillet and drizzle aged balsamic over the whole thing.
    "That's what I call the BBB: Bacon, Balsamic and Brussels!"
    This chef is not alone in his/her appreciation of this lovely, little vegetable. From celebrity chef Bobby Flay to Iron Chef Michael Symon, there seems to be newfound interest in this pretty Mini-Me of the cabbage world.
    I'm a fan too, of course. It's not just the flavor that, when the little vegetable is cooked properly, is really very delicate. It's also each head's tiny take on perfection. If you cut one open and really look at its inner construction of leaves curling tightly against each other, along with the gentle green to creamy white color scheme, you realize it's really a work of art.
    The thing to keep in mind when selecting Brussels sprouts recipes is that there needs to be the culinary equivalent of a "snap" to the dish. Think about the two takes I've described so far. Both were finished with a contrasting bit of zing: either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
    Equally so, in the recipes that appear here, the chefs injected brightness into their presentations through various methods: tossing the deep-fried morsels in a zesty vinaigrette; sprinkling with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of a pomegranate-juice reduction; and, finally, dried cranberries and a drizzle of flavorful balsamic reduction.
    Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country: the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.
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