Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Holiday Sprouts: A Festive Valentine Side Dish from Cleo Coyle #ValentinesDay

Cleo Coyle: Blue cheeses brings a rich and sophisticated flavor note to recipes, especially when paired with the sweetness of ripe or dried fruits. The second time I realized this was many years ago while stuffing my face in a beloved New York eatery called Bryant Park Grill, where I completely blissed-out over a pear and Stilton salad. 

The first time I got a clue, I was in my early twenties, visiting a friend in England, who took me to a formal dinner at Oxford University. The dinner felt like something out of Harry Potter (without the magic wands and sorting hat :)). Then the close of the meal showed me true culinary magic, and I happily concluded that port and Stilton were my new best friends. 

The elegant finish to that formal English meal introduced me to the idea of pairing blue cheese with the flavor of sweet, ripe fruit. It's the same happy pairing I've used in today's recipe. 

As for my New York experience, here's a photo
of the beautiful restaurant where it took place...

New York magazine called Bryant Park Grill one of the best-situated and most attractive dining rooms in the city, and so it is. If you are planning a trip to Manhattan or even a romantic Valentine's dinner, click here or on the photo above to learn more about this lovely spot.

The 💗 Love Connection...

To learn more,
click here.
While Bryant Park Grill's famous pear and Stilton salad helped to inspire today's recipe, there is another connection between us: a literary one.

My husband and I have always loved the pretty city park location of this airy restaurant. We loved it so much, in fact, that we decided to use it as a featured setting in our 12th Coffeehouse Mystery HOLIDAY BUZZ

Not only that...

This restaurant stands right behind New York Public Library's great and glorious main branch, a landmark Beaux-Arts building that we featured in our 8th Coffeehouse Mystery HOLIDAY GRIND.

So you see, with both literary and culinary love connections attached to this side dish, we couldn't help but feature it for Valentine's week...


Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

These fancied-up sprouts pair beautifully with almost any kind of main dish, and they're lovely served with wine or champagne. 

When I first shared this recipe (over ten years ago), I suggested it as a festive side dish for holiday dinners. But the coupling of sophisticated flavors makes it a great side for a romantic Valentine's meal, as well. 

Finally, although English Stilton is always an amazing choice, any blue cheese will work in this recipe, including Danish blue (aka Danablu), Italian Gorgonzola, or French Roquefort. And if you’re not a fan of dried figs, try substituting dried cranberries (or Craisins), which is an equally festive flavor. As long as you pair the blue with a sweet, dried fruit, you're on the right culinary track.

Where to buy Stilton?

Again, while any blue cheese will work in this recipe, if you're a fan of English Stilton and fancy a treat,
click here to virtually visit my favorite cheese shop in New York City. Murray's Cheese Shop is located in the heart of Greenwich Village, where our Coffeehouse Mysteries are set, and they ship almost anywhere.

To download this recipe in a 
free PDF that you can print, 
save, or share, click here.
Click for the free recipe PDF.

Cleo Coyle's Holiday Sprouts
with Blue Cheese, Bacon, and Figs

Makes 4 servings


3 slices thick bacon
(or 4 slices thin)

1 large yellow onion, chopped 
1 10-oz package of whole Brussels sprouts (about 18-20 sprouts)
10 dried mission figs, roughly chopped (Or 3/4 cup dried cranberries.)
1-1/4 cups water

Crumbled blue cheese (any blue will do; English Stilton is my fave)


(1) Prepare sprouts and figs: Wash and dry sprouts and slice each in half. Chop dried figs. Set aside. (If you aren’t a fan of figs, try 3/4 cup dried cranberries or Craisins.)

(2) Brown bacon pieces: Cut bacon slices into small pieces. In large skillet, fry bacon pieces until browned but not crisp. NOTE: As soon as you move to the next step in this recipe, the bacon will stop browning, so make sure your bacon displays some nice caramelized color before you move to step three and toss in your onions.

(3) Add chopped onions: Throw in the chopped onions and sauté until lightly caramelized. Remember: color equals flavor! If you move to the next step before the onions get a bit of color on them, they will not taste as sweet and the dish will not be as tasty. As with so many things in life, patience is a virtue, especially when sautéing onions!

(4) Toss in sprouts and figs: With the bacon browned and the onions sweetly caramelized, you are ready to throw your sliced sprouts and chopped figs into the pan. Fold these in well, until they are absolutely glistening with the rich, delicious flavor of rendered bacon fat!

(5) Add water, cover, and simmer: Here is the trickiest step. Pour in about one and one-quart cups of water (1-1/4 cups). Cover and simmer the mixture on medium-high heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. After about 8 minutes, lift the lid and stir. Bite into one of the sprouts to see how far it is from properly cooked through. You want a nice al dente texture and not mush. If the sprout is too hard, replace the lid and keep going, checking every few minutes.

Also check to see if the water is evaporating too slowly or quickly. If too slowly, remove the lid and turn up the heat. If too quickly, add a little more water so the mixture does not burn. While you do not want this dish to be swimming in liquid at the end of the cooking process, neither do you want it to scorch. The trick here is getting the water to evaporate at the proper rate so that the sprouts are perfectly cooked through and still browned a bit in the pan, giving you that beautiful little caramelized rim that you see in my photos. (Yes, color = flavor. But black = burned!)

(6) Finish: To serve, spoon onto serving plates and crumble your favorite blue cheese on top, whether it’s a Danish blue, an Italian Gorgonzola, or a French Roquefort. For a special treat, try English Stilton, which you can also serve as an appetizer with sweet slices of pear, or as a final course with a lovely glass of port before coffee, tea, or espresso.

Eat (and read) with joy!   

New York Times bestselling author
The Coffeehouse Mysteries &
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

This is us >> Alice and Marc.
Together we write as Cleo Coyle

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  1. Brussels sprouts are not on the top of my list of favorite veggies.
    But fixed like this,they sound delicious!
    When we lived in the Village we loved going to Murray's for cheese and then around the corner to get freshly baked Italian bread. Life is good!

  2. Libby - They really are delicious! And I love that you know about Murray's cheese shop in the Village. I could easily spend an hour in there just admiring all the amazing imported and domestic cheeses they have on display. You can't help but eat with joy at Murray's!

    ~ Cleo

  3. I really like Brussels sprouts. This sounds really good!

    1. Thanks, Elaine, may you eat with joy and...have a very happy St. Valentine's Day! With much love...

      ~ Cleo