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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 15, 2022

MyCG Holiday Menu: The first side dish

By Zach Shapiro, MyCG Writer

Next up on MyCG’s holiday menu is our first side dish. This week brings a fun and delicious take on brussels sprouts from Senior Chief Petty Officer Adam Shelton, a culinary specialist (CS) and member of Enlisted Personnel Management’s (EPM) Enlisted Career Advisory branch (EPM-4). An experienced member of the food service industry, Shelton and his wife own a small brewery in California. 

MyCG: Where are you from? How long have you served in the Coast Guard? How and why did you become a culinary specialist?

Shelton: My love of food started at an early age. I was a somewhat picky eater as a kid but growing up in the South meant I spent plenty of time in the kitchen with my mother, grandmother, and aunts. I recall being 12 years old, or so, and wanting spaghetti for supper. I rummaged through the pantry looking for a jar of sauce and had no luck. 

My mom entered the kitchen, looked at me, and said, “You know we can just make the sauce from scratch, right?”

”What?!” I exclaimed in shock. 

Now, quite a bit of what we ate growing up was made from scratch, but never pasta sauce for some reason. Anyway, Mom and I proceeded to make what at that point was the BEST red sauce I’d had in my life from simple ingredients: canned tomatoes, garlic, and seasoning. That led to my first job at age 16 in a restaurant and several others after. Fast forward to me joining the Coast Guard and attending the then-food specialist (FS) A- school right after basic training.

My place in the culinary arts has always been one of exploration. I’m incessantly seeking new cuisines, new ingredients, new techniques…ever searching for that first sauce I made on my eternal quest to hone my craft.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pear, Nuts, and Scallions

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Brussels Sprouts (give or take, 1 mesh bag will do)Senior Chief Petty Officer Adam Shelton preps the scallions and pears for his contribution to the 2022 MyCG Holiday Menu, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pear, Nuts, and Scallions, Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Senior Chief Petty Officer Shelton)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Black pepper and salt for seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. five spice powder
  • 3 scallions (green onions)
  • 2.25 oz chopped pecans (walnuts are a good substitute if you prefer)
  • 1 pear (feel free to use more if you want the dish to be more fruit-forward)
  • 1 tsp. vinegar (any vinegar will work, but for this dish I prefer a darker version like fig, or balsamic, but red wine or apple cider vinegar will work, too. White distilled vinegar would be my last choice)
  • Grated parmesan or other cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prep the brussels sprouts by trimming the roots ends and peeling a layer or two of leaves. You just want to remove most spots, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Some spots are okay. Then slice in half and place in a large bowl. 

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a couple of grinds of a black pepper mill, two pinches of kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon of five spice powder, then toss with brussels sprouts. If you don’t have a black pepper mill, a couple of pinches of ground black pepper will do.

Place the oiled and seasoned brussels sprouts on a baking sheet line with aluminum foil (with cooking spray) or parchment paper. A silicone mat works as well. Be sure to keep the bowl because you’ll need it again soon! Roast brussels sprouts for 8 minutes.

While the brussels sprouts roast, prep the scallions (green onions). Cut three (individual scallions, not bushels) at an angle (diagonally), then place in the bowl. 

Then prepare the pecans or nuts. In a small pan on low-medium heat, gently heat the nuts, constantly stirring and making sure they don’t burn or even lightly smoke. About five minutes should be fine. Then remove nuts from heat and set aside. 

Remove the brussels sprouts from the oven at the end of the eight minutes. Shake the brussels sprouts and turn as many as you can over. Then return to the oven, and roast for another 8 minutes at 425 degrees.

Peel the pear and dice into small cubes, about half an inch in size, and add to the bowl. Remove the brussels sprouts, stir them, then combine with other ingredients. Finally, add the lightly roasted nuts. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and stir.

Give it a taste and feel free to add salt. If you want to make it more acidic, add a few drops of vinegar. Transfer to your serving bowl or plate if you have one, then finish the dish with some shaved or grated parmesan.  

What is the story behind this recipe? Why did you choose it?

This is a take on a dish my wife and I enjoyed at a dinner recently that we thought was delicious and the perfect vegetarian side dish for the season. Caramelization of the brussels sprouts is a great start. Incorporating five spice powder lends a fragrance that pairs well with other winter dishes while also conjuring memories of the holidays. Adding pear lends a delightful sweetness to the dish, contrasting the slight bitterness of brussels sprouts. The lightly roasted nuts add great texture. I prefer walnuts or pecans here, but your favorite nuts should work just fine—if you don’t burn them! If you’re not confident in your nut roasting abilities, just add them straight in from the package. The last-minute addition of scallions rounds out the dish with heat, while a splash of vinegar balances the palate with bright acidity.

The beauty of this dish is not only the final product, but the minimal effort and skill it requires. You can easily pull this together in the time it takes to roast the brussels sprouts, and there’s plenty of leeway if it doesn’t come out perfectly. Just don’t oversalt and keep an eye on those pecans. Happy holidays!

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