By Analiese Paik
This is the second in a series of articles about cooking with cast-offs, the edible vegetable parts we commonly throw away. Click here for our second post Brussels sprout leaves recipe, Brussels Sprout Leaves with Cheesy Polenta and Crispy Fried Eggs.
It was the leftover roast chicken that decided the fate of the Brussels Sprouts leaves. After hearing whining and complaining from my two children about having leftover chicken for dinner (horrors!), I knew I had to downplay the chicken and make something else the focus. A favorite curried chicken salad recipe sprang to mind and the ripened mango on the kitchen counter sealed the deal. Then I remembered the Brussels Sprout leaves I had purchased the last time I was at the Westport Farmers’ Market. Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm had a bin filled with stacks of these leaves, removed from the upper stalk of the Brussels sprout plant.
I had first seen them around Thanksgiving time when she was selling the full stalks, sprouts and leaves intact. They looked like cabbage or collard greens, so I sauteed them as a quick side dish and realized how much milder they are than Brussels sprouts. Why I wondered, was I discovering these just now? What happens to the tons of Brussels sprout leaves from across the country? Do farmers compost them because there’s no consumer demand? I was determined to find a tasty culinary use for them.
As I prepared the curried chicken salad, the dish came together in my mind : heap the salad on a blanched Brussels sprout leaf, then top it with julienned mango and finely chopped scallions. Blanching the leaves for 2-3 minutes was just long enough to turn them emerald green and render them completely limp and tender. After shocking the leaves in cold water and drying them, the assembly went fast because I had prepped everything ahead. As I plated the first one, I realized these beauties were more fit for a ladies lunch or an upscale appetizer than a family dinner. So I hedged by assembling just a few, reserving the rest of the ingredients for sandwiches with Brussels sprouts “lettuce.”
At the dinner table, my oldest child grabbed one, took a bite and said “good”. After testing a spoonful of curried mango chicken salad from a bowl and declaring it delicious, my youngest, who would never eat anything green unless I first reminded him of the promise he made to the pediatrician, proceeded to pick up the curried mango chicken salad on a Brussels sprout leaf and eat it until it was gone. In my house, that qualifies as a vegetable miracle. The moral of the story is: throw all your preconceived notions about the vegetable parts you usually discard out the window, and you might just find an emerald in the rough.
Curried Mango Chicken Salad on Brussels Sprouts Leaves
Preparation: 30 min. using pre-cooked chicken
Serving: 4 as a meal, 8 as an appetizer
- 1 dozen or more Brussels Sprouts leaves
- 2 cups shredded or small dice cooked organic chicken
- 1 ripe organic mango or apple, cut into small dice or 3 tablespoons mango chutney
- 3 large or 4 small scallions, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup organic mayonnaise or blend of mayonnaise and yogurt
- 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- Toasted bread for sandwiches (optional)
- Set a medium pot of water to boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and add a few pinches of salt. Blanch the Brussels Sprouts leaves until they turn bright green, are completely wilted and become somewhat transparent. Remove leaves from the pot with tongs, immediately shock in a bowl of ice water, drain and pat dry. Set aside or refrigerate if making ahead.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, curry powder and salt. Add chicken and stir with a spoon to coat. Add diced mango and scallion: stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Assemble by laying Brussels sprouts leaves on a plate or platter and mounding spoonfuls of curried mango chicken salad on top. Top with any leftover scallion and mango.
- Alternatively, serve the leaves as “lettuce” for curried mango chicken salad sandwiches on toasted bread.