An elaborate preparation for a special meal, you can cook everything except the Brussels sprouts the day before. Reheat the vegetables, blanch the sprouts, and combine them at the last minute. Instead of chestnuts, which I find to be disappointing and expensive (and the canned ones are just too soft), I use walnuts instead.
1 cup walnut halves
1 pint baby red onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 fennel bulb, sliced into julienne strips, or 5 celery ribs, diced
1 cup stock or water
3 tablespoons chopped parsley and celery leaves, mixed
1 pound Brussels sprouts, left whole if small, halved or quartered, if not
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons chopped fennel greens and parsley
1. Drop the walnuts into a pan of boiling water for 1 minute, then scoop them out. Rub off what you can of their skins with a towel, then dry in a 350 F oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Scald the onions in the same pan for 1 minute, then slip off the outer skins without cutting off the root end. If using shallots, peel and separate, following in their natural divisions.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8- or 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the sugar, and season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook over a low heat until the onions are lightly browned and nearly tender, about 12 minutes. Give the pan a shake every few minutes. Add the fennel and continue cooking, covered, until tender.
3. In another skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the walnuts and cook over low heat, occasionally giving the pan a shake, until they're golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the stock and the herbs. Simmer, covered, until the liquid is reduced to a few tablespoons of syrupy juices. Taste for salt and pepper then combine them with the onions and fennel.
4. Boil the Brussels sprouts in salted water until tender, then add them to the mixture. Add the walnut oil and additional fennel greens, gently stir everything together and serve.
Excerpted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (10th anniversary edition, Broadway Books, 2007). Copyright 2007 by Deborah Madison.
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