ONE GREAT TACOMA DISH Brussels Sprouts at The Rock Wood Fired Pizza

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By Robert Ettlinger

Brussels sprouts are often ignored, unloved and even despised. Perhaps because they are so commonly overcooked into a bitter mush. Their crunchy appeal in a slaw or their harmonious collaboration with fats such as oil or bacon and acid like balsamic vinegar are underappreciated. These dwarf-like cabbages can be difficult to prepare as smaller nickel-sized ones overheat quickly while larger ping-pong ball-sized specimens require some knife work to halve or quarter them to cook evenly. They should be cooked until their crunch just fades and before they are so soft that no chewing is required.  The fat, acid and salt should balance and not overwhelm the earthy cabbage buds.

How unlikely then to find the delectably-prepared Roasted Brussel Sprout appetizer at a place known for its wide selection of scratch-made pizza. Complements to this establishment in offering this choice of an appetizer when so rarely is it found on menus except in a salad or as a side dish with other vegetables. At Rock Pizza they come center stage in a very hot skillet, insulated from the table by an appropriately elevated wooden platform. The sprouts are choreographed into concentric circles like chorus line dancers in a Busby Berkley musical. They are chaperoned by hefty postage-stamp sized bacon pieces, all members of the ensemble glistening with the shine of a honey glaze. Flecks of Sriracha cling like sequins to the sprouts.

And what a pleasant surprise to find the sprouts neither mushy or noise-making crunchy but of soft gumdrop consistency requiring just a very sight chew.

But this dish is so much more than a hearty dose of a well-respected, vitamin and phytochemical rich vegetable. Those who feel vegetables are boring, (children), or have little depth of flavor, (those raised on boiled vegetables), will awaken to the harmony made by smoky luscious bacon, the puffs of sun-drenched sprouts, the lacquer of honey and the tingle of Sriracha. Small children were observed plucking sprouts with bare hands and sneaking them into their mouths while their parent’s eyes were elsewhere.

Orion Crockett, cook at Rock Pizza for two years, shared with me that this dish is only offered when the little cabbages are freshly available and are screened for blemishes. He is careful to remove stems and halves them to proper heating and eating size and doesn’t parboil them to preserve some bite. The bacon is not cooked separately but laid over the sprouts in a skillet, which goes into in a very hot oven which allows the sprouts to dance in the bacon’s drippings. Halfway through the roasting the honey and Sriracha are added with a jiggle of the pan.

It’s priced at $8.25

Of course, you can have dozens of types of wood-fired pizza and other entrees as well. Cook Orion’s favorites are the Mediterranean salad, (chicken, lettuce, olives, cucumbers, onions, artichoke, mushrooms, tomatoes, pepperoni, feta), for $12.95, and the Burger Man Burger, (beef, bacon, chipotle, cheese, tomato, lettuce, onions, mayo), at $14.50, and the Crazy Train Pizza, (pepperoni, sausage, bacon, onions, garlic, oregano, peppers, mozzarella, red sauce), 12 inches for $22.50.

The Rock Wood Fired Pizza is located at 1920 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma. Find them on Facebook (TheRockWFP) or call (253) 756-5092.

What will your ONE GREAT TACOMA DISH be? Contact the author at roberteettlinger@gmail.com.

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