During my senior year of high school, way back in 2011, part of my requirements for applying to the Cornell School of Hotel Administration were six months of experience working in hospitality.
Still convinced at that time that cooking was my true passion, I emailed Chef Gerard Graft, who was kind enough to accept my free labor at Niche, back when Niche was a thing.
I had a lot of fun experiences at Niche — stuffing my face with leftover carpaccio, walking in on a cooler full of goat heads, and asking naively what the chefs were planning on doing with "all that raspberry puree" that turned out to be several gallons of pig's blood — but mostly what I remember is the food.
I pride myself on being open to eating anything once, and while I didn't like everything I was fed there — I recall a beet sorbet that tasted like literal dirt — I won't forget a lot of the combinations I tried at Niche. Combining even the simplest of flavors in imaginative ways, I learned, can create wonders. Many of the recipes I witnessed ended up in my repertoire of inspiration for dishes I make to this very day.
Times have, of course, changed; Niche exists no longer, and I have grown rather fond of beets over the years. But I remain ever grateful to Chef Craft and the team that taught me so much.
One side dish I witnessed being made nearly every day was Brussels sprouts. While a lowly kitchen stage like me was never taught the official method, the observed technique of browning then steaming is one that I quickly adapted into my own skills. Below is a recipe vaguely based on what I witnessed in that kitchen so many years ago. May it bring you joy — and full stomaches — as it has brought me over the years.
- 1 lb raw Brussels sprouts
- 2 T. canola oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 T. chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 T. butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
To prepare Brussels sprouts, chop off the hard end of each and dispose. Peel off loose leaves and set aside, then quarter the remainder of each sprout.
In a wide skillet, heat the oil over high heat until very hot. Add in the quartered Brussels sprouts and allow to brown slightly for one to two minutes, stirring every thirty seconds. Add in the leaves and allow to brown for another few minutes.
Adjust heat to medium. Pour the water into the pan and allow to steam the sprouts until dry. Cook for another three minutes, then remove from heat. Add butter, parsley and parmesan and stir until butter is melted and ingredients are combined. Season to taste and enjoy.
Note: this recipe is easily amendable! Add in some sliced green onions, lemon zest, toasted almonds or dried cranberries for a fun flavor combination. Toss in some red pepper flakes or sliced Thai bird chili for a kick, or glaze with balsamic vinegar reduction or maple syrup for sweetness. The possibilities are endless!