My Mom gave me a copy of Veganomicon in January, but I didn’t get a chance to make anything out of it until this week. I saw some beautiful first-of-the-season brussels sprouts at the store and brought them home, then went looking for a recipe. The Indian-spiced crumbly cornmeal-chickpea coating appealed to Derek, and I had all the ingredients, so I decided to make it for dinner.
The basic idea:
You start by preheating the oven to 400 and oiling a cookie sheet with 2 Tbs. of oil.
Next you trim and wash 1-1.5 pounds of sprouts (I had 1 pound 7 oz) and pat dry with a dish towel. Only “really huge sprouts” are supposed to be sliced in half. I wasn’t sure how big “really huge” was, so I just halved the handful of sprouts that seemed bigger than the rest.
After you prep the sprouts you toss them in a bowl with a little chickpea flour and salt. Then in a small you mix together cornmeal, chickpea flour, salt, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Then you add the remaining oil…. 6 Tablespoons. Wow! That’s a lot of oil. I guess I should have read through the recipe more carefully before choosing it. With the oil on the cookie sheet that’s a 1/2 cup of oil for a recipe that’s supposed to serve 4-6. But it was too late to back out now. So I added the oil to the flour mixture. The recipe says it’s supposed to form “crumbs” but it didn’t really clump. It was more of just a sandy, oily mass. I mixed it with the brussels sprouts as best as I could and then added the sprouts to the cookie sheet.
I was worried about burning but surprisingly nothing burned. After 25 minutes my sprouts were cooked through and the “crumbs” were reasonably crisp. But something wasn’t right. The coating had a good flavor (I liked the cinnamon and garam masala), but the texture was still way too sandy… and oily. And most of the coating didn’t really stick to the sprouts. The sprouts were cooked but they kind of steamed in their jackets. They tasted a little wan. The coating was very salty but the salt didn’t really penetrate to the inside of the sprouts. The sprouts I had halved had a better ratio of sprout to coating, but still were kind of steamed and bland inside. This recipe certainly didn’t bring out the best in the sprouts. If I’m going to use all that oil to roast brussels sprouts I want them to caramelize!
The coating turned out so odd that I wonder if I somehow messed up the recipe. Is it possible that I used masa harina instead of cornmeal? Or that I only used 6 Tbs. of oil instead of all 8? Even if I made one (or both) of these mistakes, I don’t think the recipe would work that well as written. There are people online with good things to say about it, but I found quite a lot of negative reviews as well. (See below.)
I did like the spice mix though, so if I were to try this again I think I would start the sprouts in my cast iron skillet on the stovetop. At this point the pan would have only oil (less though), the sprouts, and salt. Once the sprouts started to caramelize I would add the spices mixed with a smaller amount of cornmeal and chickpea flour. Then I’d toss the whole pan in the oven for maybe 10 minutes to cook through and for the coating to brown.
Comments from around the web, mostly from the vegweb.com “The official Veganomicon recipe review” thread.
- Good, but not great. The cornmeal gave it a sandy sort of texture that made me feel like we hadn’t quite rinsed them well enough. Also, the recipe called for rubbing oil into the cornmeal/spice mixture to form crumbs. Ours formed a loose batter – not at all crumbs. We decided against adding more cornmeal because I like to stick to recipes the first time I make them. It crisped up, mostly. I used a blue cornmeal – perhaps this accounts for the differences?
- I don’t remember ever eating brussel sprouts, so I figured I should give this one a shot. I enjoyed everything about this dish EXCEPT the brussel sprouts. They were like eating foul little cabbage stems. Never again! I am going to try this recipe with fresh okra next time. oh, and I topped it with the Spiced Yogurt Sauce which was great (sb)
- Ok, so I don’t like brussel sprouts. I thought I’d try to get myself to like them using this recipe… but it didn’t work out. The crumbs didn’t form crumbs; it had way too much oil. It was more like a sandy paste. But I carried on, figuring it would crisp up in the oven. Not really – some parts were crispy but still hard to chew (the cornmeal makes it sandy…), and other parts were still soft and oily. In fact, I liked the brussel sprouts *better* than the crumbs. It might have turned out totally different had I added the oil 1 Tbsp at a time, until the right texture was achieved, but it was too late… (fb)
- I didn’t like this much at all, and I love sprouts. It was…gritty. I think the masala cornmeal might have been good in another context, but they didn’t go with the sprouts at all, and they didn’t stick to them properly. (spinachk)
- The consistency of the sprouts was great, but the crumb topping was sometimes a bit too gritty for me. Again, I’m not sure if I did something wrong, but I felt like it was exfoliating my teeth. It wasn’t uncomfortable to eat, but it did feel a bit weird. I probably just need to get used to it (seitansaiddance)
The real disappointment of the dinner, though, are the Cornmeal Masala Roasted Brussels Sprouts. They sounded so enticing in the book! The trouble with them is that the spices (especially the cinnamon) overpower the sprouts, and the cornmeal crust stays too undercooked and hurtfully crunchy. (Brad hates this dish, too.)
The technique as written is not quite right, either. After your Brussels sprouts are washed and cut and sitting in a nice big bowl, you make the crust out of dry ingredients and oil in a small bowl. Well, then they say to add the Brussels sprouts. To the small bowl? I don’t think so. I dump the crust goo into the big bowl of sprouts to mix it in.
Another thing: the crust uses six [actually 8!] tablespoons of oil. That’s much too much fat and calories. I hardly ever throw food away, but this dish is a candidate for going down the drain.