This is a simple, colorful dish of interesting tastes and textures. The tiny cabbages are steamed just until tender, then tumbled in aromatic oil with a sprinkling of Smithfield ham and black sesame seeds. It is an unusual combination, with great taste appeal.
(For details on steaming and how to improvise a steamer.)
Trim the hard stem ends off the Brussels sprouts, removing just enough to expose new flesh, and discard any faded outer leaves. Arrange in a single layer on a heatproof plate and steam over high heat just until tender, about 8–12 minutes depending on size, when the core can be pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife. Do not oversteam. The cabbages lose most all of their appeal when mushy.
If you are not stir-frying them immediately, rush the sprouts under cold water until chilled to stop the cooking and set the color. Pat dry, then put aside for up to several hours at room temperature or covered overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before stir-frying.
Have the Brussels sprouts and the stir-frying ingredients all within easy reach of your stovetop. Put a shallow serving bowl of contrasting color in a low oven to warm.
Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to sizzle a bead of water on contact. Add the oil or fat and swirl to glaze the bottom of the pan. If you are using chicken fat, do not allow it to smoke. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a single Brussels sprout, add the sprouts and stir gently to coat, about 20–30 seconds, adjusting the heat so they sizzle gently without scorching. Sprinkle the ham and sesame seeds on top, stir to mix, then sprinkle with pepper-salt—sparsely if using seasoned fat and Smithfield ham, more liberally if using corn or peanut oil or a less salty ham. Toss to mix, splash with wine, toss, then fold in the sesame oil. Taste, adjust salt if required, then scrape the mixture into the heated bowl. The Brussels sprouts should be in and out of the pan within 1 minute.
Serve the Brussels sprouts hot, tepid or at room temperature. If serving them as part of a cold platter, you may wish to cut them in half and arrange them in a pattern. Otherwise, leave them whole, looking like a bowlful of carved jade.
Leftovers are excellent cold and will keep 2–3 days, refrigerated and tightly sealed.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.