Why It Works
- Separating Brussels sprouts into individual leaves allows for quick charring without the risk of turning them to mush.
- The roasted bitter aroma of brewed coffee echoes the flavors of charred Brussels sprouts and toasted sesame oil in the salad.
- Scrunching and massaging the dressing into the leeks and Brussels sprouts helps to lightly wilt the vegetables, and evenly coat them with the vinaigrette.
This salad pays tribute to one of my all-time favorite Korean banchan, pa-muchim, a marinated scallion salad of raw shaved onions and scallions dressed with mustard, vinegar, gochugaru, and sesame oil. Pa-muchim is traditionally served as an accompaniment to samgyeopsal, or grilled pork belly; wrapped together in a lettuce leaf, pa-muchim’s acidity and underlying bitterness from mustard and raw onions balances the fat and smokiness from grilled pork.
This riff on pa-muchim uses Brussels sprouts leaves in place of scallions. The leaves are quickly charred in a hot cast iron pan to lightly wilt them and coax out their subtle bitterness. Once cooled, the Brussels leaves are tossed with thinly sliced raw leeks, which provide a heartier, longer-lasting crunch than sliced onions, and a coffee-Dijon dressing.
This dressing was a happy kitchen accident: I was making a batch of sesame mustard dressing and knocked my cup of morning coffee into the bowl, and I found that these two bold flavors worked beautifully together! With dueling bitterness, the Dijon acts as the soprano, while the coffee is the alto. They're balanced out by the addition of honey, cider vinegar, and nutty toasted sesame oil. To maximize the punch of the mustard, I recommend adding it to the vinaigrette right before dressing the salad, as it tends to lose some of its oomph if it sits in the dressing for an extended period of time.
When not used for this banchan, the coffee-Dijon is a dressing that should always be in your fridge; it works as a dipping sauce for fried chicken, it'll wake up sleepy Tuesday night roasted broccoli, and liven up a roasted pork loin with apples. The marinated charred Brussels sprouts and leeks can serve as a quick and easy everyday banchan for accompanying meat, poultry, and seafood dishes, but they'll also fit in nicely as part of a larger holiday meal. Every Thanksgiving table could use a little pop of bitter acidity to cut through and complement the rich, sweet, and savory elements of the meal.
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) honey
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) brewed double-strength coffee or espresso
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (25ml) fish sauce
- 1 garlic clove (5g), finely grated or minced
- 1/4 cup (32g) toasted sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (6g) freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) vegetable oil
- 1 pound (450g) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and separated into individual leaves
- 1/2 large leek, white and light green parts only, rinsed and sliced into thin 3- by 1/2-inch strips (5 1/4 ounces; 150g total)
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) Dijon mustard
In a large bowl, whisk together honey, sesame oil, coffee, fish sauce, cider vinegar, and garlic. Stir in sesame seeds and black pepper; set aside.
In a large cast iron or carbon steel skillet, heat oil over high heat until just smoking. Carefully add Brussels sprouts leaves to the pan, spreading them into as even a layer as possible. Cook, stirring and shaking the pan occasionally, until leaves are charred in spots and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Working quickly, transfer Brussels sprouts to a rimmed baking sheet or large plate, spread in an even single layer, and set aside to cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes.
Once Brussels sprouts have cooled, add to bowl with dressing, along with leeks and Dijon. Using clean hands, scrunch, mix, and massage together until vegetables are evenly coated with dressing and slightly softened, about 30 seconds.
Divide salad between small individual serving bowls and serve. If not serving right away, salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before serving.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The dressed salad can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day. The dressing (without the Dijon mustard) can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.