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Childhood fears: Tom Cruise and Brussels sprouts

Okay, real talk, just for a minute. Tom Cruise is fucking scary. I’m not talking TOP GUN, homo-erotic, shirtless, volleyball-playing Tom Cruise – I’m talking couch-jumping on Oprah, Scientology, did-he-just-really-say-that, oh-shit-he-really-did-just-fucking-say-that, Tom Cruise. Or, to be more concise and perhaps politically correct, EYES WIDE SHUT Tom Cruise.

But let’s backtrack about twenty years, long before Tom Cruise scared me, when my fears were relegated to cats (thanks to my cousins, who upon learning my allergy to cats, locked me in a closet with three of them), the inevitable threat of nuclear war (my father, who thought it logical to outline, in detail, the impending end of the world to me after peewee hockey practice) and Brussels sprouts (they tasted gross).

Now back in modern times, I’m watching EYES WIDE SHUT on the Sundance Channel and realizing, holy shit, this movie is fucking scary. Not in a slasher film, blood and guts way, but Kubrick’s intense examination of the human psyche coupled with his death weeks after the film came out all multiplied by Tom Cruise, equals the kind of movie that makes you want to call your mother and tell her you love her once the credits roll.

Somewhere in the second act, I catch myself drifting, perhaps it’s the confusing number of breasts on screen or maybe I have a secret fear of looking deep within myself, but I feel the need to know the answer to an unshakable question: is Tom Cruise the Brussels sprouts of Scientologist actors? (Fun fact: John Travolta is the eggplant of Scientologist actors.) In twenty more years, will Tom Cruise be something I enjoy every week or so? That remains  to be seen, but in the spirit of embracing my fears and adding bacon, here is a recipe for Brussels sprouts.

1 pound Brussels sprouts
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 shallots, finely chopped, divided
2 teaspoons mustard seed
4 ounces bacon, diced
1⁄4 cup white wine, preferably Chardonnay
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Halve sprouts. Rinse ‘em off, peel them, if that’s your thing, but they’re going into a scorching hot oven, so don’t be a pussy. Put them in a low-sided roasting pan and douse in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add half of the shallots and the mustard seed. Roast the sprouts for about 30 minutes. Pull them out when they’re tender and taste good. Get a sauté pan hot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, and cook until perfectly crisp. Take the bacon out of the pan; reserve the fat. Throw the remaining shallots into the same pan, and crank the heat. Sauté in the bacon fat for about 4 minutes, until caramelized. Add the white wine and Dijon mustard, and whisk it to making it all dressing-like. Dress the Brussels sprouts with the sauce in the pan, add the bacon and eat it while picturing Tom Cruise playing volleyball.

Oh, and please buy my cookbook. Now.

EYES WIDE SHUT airs on Sundance Channel on 10/5 at 10pm, 10/21 at 12am and 10/30 at 10pm.