I nearly didn’t make this salad for Thanksgiving.
With Sam Sifton’s peremptory Thanksgiving book still ringing in my ears, I did, in fact, briefly debate the pros and cons of his strict no-salad rule. Might it diminish the lusciousness of the meal? Is it the last thing anyone wants to see on a festive table? On the other hand, this barely counts as salad. Surely by salad, Sifton means lettuce?
As it turned out, this deceptively simple dish of raw Brussels sprouts and fresh pecorino, both finely shaved and tossed with a simple dressing, was — again — undoubtedly one of the favorites of the table. On the contrary, what a welcome bounce on the palate between forkfuls of turkey and chestnut stuffing.
This dish wasn’t born as a Thanksgiving side, and shouldn’t die as one. It is a salad for any occasion. I first encountered something similar quite some years ago in the lunch bar up the block from our office in Soho. That version had walnuts, and though adding nuts would be overkill on Thanksgiving, they marry perfectly.
This is barely a recipe, just a few very good ingredients tossed together. It must be made a few hours ahead, so the dressing has time to soften the Brussels sprouts. There should be enough pecorino for a shaving or two in each mouthful.
Very fresh Brussels sprouts, preferably still on the stem because snapping them off is a fun occupation for children on Thanksgiving morning
Pecorino, not too aged
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sherry or good wine vinegar
Best olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly hulled walnuts (optional)
Trim and remove one or two outer leaves of each Brussels sprout, then shave them finely with a mandolin or a sharp knife and lots of patience.
Cut the pecorino into paper thin shavings.
The salad is very thirsty and will soak up the dressing, so plan generously, but the proportions are roughly: 5 lemon juice plus 1 vinegar to 8 olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper. Taste the salad and adjust dressing/seasoning as necessary.