Winter’s Don’t-Miss Dish in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine
The fried Brussels sprouts at Sides Hardware & Shoes in Los Olivos are famous! Winter’s the time to head in and try them, then read below to make them at home yourself.
Chef Michael Cherney came to Los Olivos to get in touch with ingredients and be closer to where they come from: the farm. Farms are so important to Chef Cherney that he spent time living on one through World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farms (WWOOF). He worked half days for his boarding and got addicted. He then escaped city life to slow down here in the Santa Ynez Valley where he runs the kitchen at what locals call Sides, and where most everything is sourced locally and fresh.
His Brussels Sprouts feature the acids of Sherry and capers instead of the sprouts’ typical leading star: bacon. At a restaurant known for its house-cured bacon steak and twice-won titles at the annual Bacon & Barrels festival, one notices the lack of pork in this dish. Cherney explains “it’s a nod to the Brussels Sprouts with fish sauce at David Chang’s Momofuku,” a progressive New York restaurant. “We want to cook something different. I cook food that I want to eat and when flavors really pop in your mouth, that’s acid.”
Chef Cherney trims the stem off washed Brussels Sprouts and cuts them in half. Then he heats peanut oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees – grapeseed and cottonseed oils also have a high smoke point (olive oil won’t work). He fries them for 2 minutes or until golden brown – before they get mushy inside. He removes them and tosses them with Sherry vinegar and kosher salt, then finishes them with a handful of capers.
It’s important to use the best ingredients, which for him means Spanish Sherry – the place where Sherry originates – and when it comes to capers, smallest are best. As for the mega popular Brussels Sprouts themselves, this winter brassica can be hard to source locally since everyone wants them! Chef Cherney shops the Solvang farmers market weekly for most of the restaurant’s produce, but after he lost his best Brussels Sprouts supplier here in the SYV he sometimes has to source them further afield in California. Brussels Sprouts farming anyone?