Last week I went to a food fair near Madison Square Park, and I was super excited to try a deep-fried Brussels sprout taco I’d read about online.
The taco, which I gobbled up in about three bites, was fine enough. It had creamy sauce and pureed beans, and some pickled onions.
But it wasn’t what I was envisioning in my head. I’d wanted just plain old fried Brussels sprouts. Maybe their papery insides lightly charred. Some bacon mixed in. And a simple, good salsa on top.
I don’t fault the taco stand for not selling this, by the way. As Roberto Santibañez told the New York Times recently, if you put one item in a tortilla and try to sell it as a taco, no one in New York will buy it.
In my house, though, we are free to taquear whatever we want. Yesterday I fried up the Brussels sprouts and bacon (splattering my yoga shirt in the process — note to self, do not fry bacon in yoga clothes), and while everything cooked, I charred our last CSA tomato on the comal.
I whipped up a quick toasted chile de árbol salsa, then spritzed the hot, crispy Brussels sprouts with lime juice and a few spoonfuls of the red stuff. One bite and it was exactly what I’d been hoping for: sweet, acidic, tangy. Not exactly unfussy, but perfect for me.
Fried Brussels Sprout and bacon tacos, with charred tomato salsa
Makes 6-8 tacos
Serves 4 for a light appetizer, or 2 for dinner with leftovers
Notes: You can make the salsa the day before, to save some time.
For the charred tomato salsa:
1 large, ripe beefsteak tomato (about 1/2 lb.)
5 chile de árbol
1 medium-sized clove garlic, unpeeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
For the fried Brussels sprout tacos:
Just under 1/4 lb. thick-sliced bacon (I used about 9 slices); or lardons
1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, rinsed and thorughly dried
About 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
A package of corn tortillas
Lime wedges for serving
1. First, the salsa: Heat a comal or nonstick skillet to medium-low. When hot, place the tomato in the center, and the garlic clove and chile de árbol on the side. (Sides of pan = less direct heat = less chance of burning.) Turn the chiles frequently until they start to release their spicy aroma, about 30 seconds to a minute. Remove chiles from the comal to cool. Meanwhile, turn the tomato and garlic until they’re soft and blackened in spots.
Pluck off and discard the chile stems. Crumble or tear the chiles — with their seeds, if you like it hot — into the blender jar. Peel and roughly chop the garlic clove, and add that, too. Blitz until minced. Quarter the tomato and add to the blender jar with one or two tablespoons of water. (Or none.) Once salsa reaches your desired texture, pour into a bowl with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let sit while you fry the sprouts.
2. Then, the tacos: Cook the bacon over medium-low heat in a large cast-iron skillet. Alternately, you can use this very cool water method from Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats, which ensures that the bacon cooks evenly.
While the bacon cooks, remove any funny-looking outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the hard end nubs, and slice them neatly in half. Set aside.
Cool the cooked bacon on a plate lined with paper towels.
In the same pan as you fried the bacon — yep, we’re gonna use that grease — add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and heat over a medium flame. When hot, use tongs to carefully place Brussels sprouts cut-side down, in one layer. They should sizzle. Don’t move them. And don’t leave the kitchen or start washing dishes, because these things cook quickly. Turn them once the edges start to darken, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan once they’re dark-golden on both sides.
Repeat with the rest of the Brussels sprouts, draining each batch on paper towels. (This took me about three batches in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. I really need a larger one. Santa?) Chop the cooled bacon and toss with sprouts.
Warm the tortillas on the stove or the microwave. (I usually start with two per person, for a light meal.) Place tortillas in a cloth or basket to keep warm, and serve Brussels sprouts and bacon immediately, passing lime wedges and salsa.