Featured in Seven Days - November 2011

Written by Carolyn Fox

Courtney Contos, chef, food educator, consultant and writer, Chittenden County

By Thanksgiving morning, chef Courtney Contos will already have spent about two weeks preparing for the meal — planning recipes, harvesting vegetables from the garden and laying out china. With nine guests on the way and a turkey throwdown in store — she’ll be preparing a maple-brined bird; her partner, Jim (aka “Prince Charming”), a barbecued one — Contos calls Thanksgiving eve “the calm before the storm.”

She and Prince Charming, appropriated as sous chef, always open a favorite bottle of wine as they set the table and prep the veggies. Not to be left out, their three dogs work their way into the hustle and bustle.

One year, as Contos was cleaning homegrown Brussels sprouts outside, one of the dogs snatched the stalk right out of her hand, she says. The dogs “took off.” They played tug-of-war.

Now, Contos forfeits the stalks to the dogs every year. “We just let them do their thing,” she says. “We laugh at the sight of these green bits all over the kitchen floor.”

Needless to say, Thanksgiving always begins with a very thorough vacuuming.

Maple-walnut Brussels sprouts

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and scored
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup Vermont maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or apple cider

Heat a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid on medium until hot. Add butter; let melt. Add Brussels sprouts and sauté for about two minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until Brussels sprouts are just tender when pierced with a knife, about six to eight minutes, depending on how you like them cooked. If the sauce has not reduced to a thick glaze, remove lid and continue to cook until reduced.