Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
3 lbs Brussels sprouts, ugly outer leaves pulled off
1 lb chunk of pancetta (or thick-cut bacon), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 tsp dried herbes de provence)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Fresh-ground black pepper
Boil a very large pot of salted water. Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Blanch the whole Brussels sprouts in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and then put the sprouts into the ice bath. Once they've cooled down, drain them and cut off the stem ends and cut in half lengthwise and dry them off on some paper towels.
To give the Brussels sprouts a great carmelized texture, saute them in at least two batches -- you'll want them to to cook in a single layer in a very large skillet.
These directions assume you're cooking two batches: saute half of the cubed pancetta in the skillet over medium heat until the pancetta is crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the pancetta to a paper towel and reserve. Keep the melted fat from the pancetta in the skillet (there should be about 2 tbsp). Increase the heat on the skillet to medium high and add half of the Brussels sprouts to the pan (watch out for some splatter, which is normal). Using tongs or a spatula, try to arrange as many of the sprouts cut side down as possible. Add 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar to the skillet and shake and tilt the pan gently to evenly distribute the vinegar. Saute undisturbed. If the pancetta fat has been fully absorbed and the pan is dry, add a little olive oil. Toss the sprouts after about 4 minutes, adding the fried pancetta and half of the herbs, and saute until tender, about another 2-3 minutes. The cut sides of the sprouts ideally will be a dark brown color. Add pepper and a light amount of sea salt, to taste. Remove the sprouts to a serving bowl. Repeat the steps above with the second batch of ingredients. Remember to add some olive oil if the pan is getting too dry.
Toss the batches together and serve warm or room temperature.
Serves 6-10 people as a side dish.
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