Ina Garten’s Balsamic Brussels Sprouts // Philadelphia Fish House Punch

Ina Garten's roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta and balsamic

I woke up Sunday morning with one mission in mind: buy a punch bowl.

We had had friends over on Saturday night, and the Fish House Punch had been a wild success, adored by the men and women alike, the unfrozen ice ring inconsequential, the plastic lemonade pitcher excusable but less than ideal.

The punch had been a last-minute addition to the menu, inspired I suppose by the Bon Appetit Thanksgiving Issue I had been reading earlier that day, whose second bit of holiday-survival advice was to “Serve a House Drink.” With only four drinkers on deck Saturday night, there was no pressing need to make a punch, but after its reception, I don’t think I’ll be able to host another party this season — any season? — without serving it. It’s just too good, and so simple, too, calling for juicing lemons, dissolving sugar in water, and twisting open bottles: cognac, dark rum, and peach brandy.

Like most punches, this one is high-octane, the kind of stuff that warms the body upon first sip. And it did its job well, starting the evening with a bang, ultimately making the party a smashing success, but not before delivering a successful smashing: we were all drinking water exclusively by the time dinner hit the table. What can I say, it’s only November 5th. We’re out of practice. I’ve never been more excited for the holidays. And I’ve got my punch bowl now to prove it.

Incidentally, for this small dinner party, I made the mustard-roasted chicken and served another Ina Garten recipe — brussels sprouts roasted with pancetta — on the side. Our friends, who admitted to being unsure about brussels sprouts upon seeing them enter the oven, gobbled them up, helped themselves to seconds, and made a point to ask about their preparation. Roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, the sprouts and the pancetta crisp up in unison, the fat from the pancetta flavoring the sprouts, whose crispy surfaces emerge glistening and caramelized. Just as the pan exits the oven, everything gets tossed with a few tablespoons of syrupy balsamic vinegar, which serves not only to deglaze the pan but also to provide that bite that cabbage so often needs. We ended the evening with Balzano apple cake, still one of my all-time favorite desserts, one I hope you all find time to make at some point this fall.

punch glasses


making the ice ring

ice block

ice ring with lemons

Fish House Punch

Fish House Punch

Source: Epicurious

Bundt pan (or something similar) if you feel like making an ice ring

1 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (6 to 8 lemons), strained
1 (750-ml) bottle Jamaican amber rum
12 oz Cognac (1 1/2 cups)
2 oz peach brandy* (1/4 cup)
Garnish: lemon slices

*If you can’t find peach brandy, don’t substitute peach schnapps, which I have done before — it’s surprisingly overpowering. Just use 1/4 cup more Cognac. It’s delicious made this way.

1. To make ice block, fill bundt pan with water and freeze until solid, about 8 hours.

2. Stir together sugar and 3 1/2 cups water in a large bowl or pot until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice, rum, Cognac, and brandy and chill, covered, at least 3 hours.

3. Put ice block in a punch bowl. Top with lemon slices. Pour punch over top.

punch glasses

Brussels sprout stalks

Brussels sprouts

ready for the oven

reduced balsamic

syrupy balsamic

adding the balsamic

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Balsamic
Source: The Barefoot Contessa’s Foolproof

Notes: As noted above, I served these brussels sprouts with the mustard-roasted chicken for a dinner party. The rest of the menu was simple, too: we started with a ball of burrata sprinkled with sea salt served with crackers and peasant bread; and we finished the evening with Balzano apple cake. This was a pretty simple meal to throw together, but if you’re looking for other ideas, find them here: Appetizers & Hors d’oeuvres, Desserts, On the Side, What’s for Dinner.

1 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half through the core — leave the teensy ones whole
4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or more or less to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
1 Tbs. syrupy balsamic vinegar or 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup standard, store-bought balsamic*

*You can buy expensive aged balsamic vinegar that’s syrupy or you can boil balsamic vinegar until it’s reduced to half its volume. If you are making a smaller pan of sprouts, start with a 1/4 cup; if you are making a larger pan, start with 1/2 cup.

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Place the brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, including any of the loose leaves. Cut the pancetta into 1/2-inch dice and add to the pan. Add the olive oil, the 1 1/2 tsp. salt (or less — start with a teaspoon if you are sensitive to salt) and the 1/2 tsp. pepper and toss with your hands. Spread out the mixture in a single layer.

3. Roast the brussels sprouts until they’re tender and nicely browned and the pancetta is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes, tossing once at the 20-minute mark. Meanwhile, place vinegar in a small saucepan or frying pan and simmer gently until it is reduced by half and looking syrupy — be careful here! Err on the side of under reducing — once the balsamic starts thickening, it can burn quickly. At the first sign of the balsamic getting too thick or dark, transfer it to a small bowl.

4. Remove pan from the oven, drizzle immediately with the balsamic vinegar and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot. Serves 6.

Ina Garten's roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta and balsamic


  1. Liz says

    My father was stationed with the Navy during WWII in Philadelphia where Fish House Punch was standard party fare. Apparently, it was a godsend to young war brides who, not knowing how to cook, proceeded to get their guests well and truly sloshed, at which point every dish that followed was indisputably sublime. Apparently, my mother woke up one morning to find two of her guests, supine on the living floor, having enjoyed the Fish House Punch all too well.

  2. Laurie F says

    I’m gonna give both of these a try at Thanksgiving….I figure the punch will make me love Brussel sprouts! 😉 Hey, opinion on something….we have to replace our stove with this remodel, the old one is black and old and yucky…I have a black and stainless steel fridge too…..Here’s my thought….I’m going for an old farmhouse vibe in the kitchen…wood countertops that we made, vinyl on the floor that looks like stone, cream walls, old pictures on the walls, flowers, herbs etc….you get the picture….I’m thinking, why not go a little retro on the stove and fridge and go with white? It sounds prettier, more in tune with the kitchen decor and kind of old fashioned….the older I get, *54 this year….the more I really miss the good old days of my grandmother’s house, little town in Oklahoma, she was a cook in a cafe there for years and years….I guess that’s part of aging and part of the Holidays! Remembering the past and missing the people that are gone now! Anyway, I would love to hear what you think Ali! I’ve really enjoyed cooking so much this last year since I found you on the net!! XO! Happy Holidays darlin’!

    • says

      Laurie Laurie, I absolutely love the idea of a white fridge and stove! I am totally with you on being into the retro feel a little bit. My kitchen is totally old school here, and the only thing I would change is the countertops to wood — just like you! I love wood countertops. Your kitchen sounds like an absolute dream. OK, do you know the website houzz? My aunt told me about it because I told her I needed a big rug for our living room, and I was interested in a sisal rug, and I started looking on houzz and became totally addicted. You can filter the style to “farmhouse”, and I bet you will get so many ideas for your stove and fridge. Just found this pic:

      Happy Holidays to you, too! Hope I get to meet you one day. And do try the Brussels sprouts, but not without the punch…it truly will make every dish you make a complete triumph :)

      • Laurie F says

        OMG, what a great site! and picture! I am so going to send you photos once everything is done! I can imagine that I will also be totally addicted to that site, I love all things house and garden! and cooking of course, but that, love, goes without saying….lol! Anyway, you’re a dear and I can think of no fonder wish than meeting you too someday! (I’m having the punch with Thanksgiving dinner, we will all certainly enjoy ourselves that day! Ha!) XO….;)

        • says

          I know, it is hard to pull away from all of those beautiful images! Glad you like it, too. And yes re punch on Thanksgiving! I am already looking forward to making it again. Is it weird that I’ve already packed the punch bowl in the back of the car? xo

  3. says

    LOVE brussels and love the sound of this version! They are beautiful and I’m sure, very delicious. But best of all here is your list of what you served at your dinner party! That is both inspiring and a great guideline for any of us to follow. I admire so much how you stick with what you know, really are familiar with to cook for a party… I always try new recipes out on company (well, often) against my mother’s longtime advise to never do this :) It usually turns out ok, but sometimes there’s a surprise, not a good one! Thanks for the reminder to stick with what I know, and also for a great dinner party menu. Perfection!

  4. Anne Murphy says

    Made these Sunday night for a mini-Thanksgiving day dinner. They were delicious. I didn’t have pancetta so used bacon instead. Will definitely make these again.

    • says

      I’ve been wanting to try with bacon. So happy to hear you liked them! Bacon is a little easier for me to find — my favorite coop in town doesn’t sell pancetta. Will be making again soon. Thanks, Anne, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. says

    I can’t believe I have never visited here before! What a great blog etc etc. I arrived here in researching Ina Garten’s Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic!! I just discovered/made them this month and was going to do a very short post on Monday. They are absolutely fabulous and now my favorite way to eat one of my favorite vegetables!!
    And, I have to tell you, my Father, and grandfather, and great and great great were all members of the Fish House! Oh yes, the stories we could tell you about the place. Man, they were all very heavy drinkers and downed that stuff at each meeting. In days gone by the men all met and cooked on Wednesday afternoons (I mean, what self-respecting Philadelphian worked after noon on a Wednesday???) at “State in Schuykill” on the Delaware River. Anyway, yes, there really was and is a Fish House and yes, they do still serve this punch.
    So, I’m off to subscribe to your blog, and very pleased to “meet” you!

    • says

      Oh my gosh, too funny! How amazing that you have such a long line of Fish House lineage! I like their style. I could go for half-day Wednesdays. I had no idea there was still a Fish House, and I lived in Philly for almost 5 years! I’m embarrassed. The Fish House punch was a huge hit at our Thanksgiving — man, that stuff is lethal and addictive, and people love it.

      Thanks so much for writing in. Going to check out your website right now. Glad to hear you like the brussels sprouts, too, and nice to meet you!

  6. says

    We made this punch last night for our annual Christmas party and wow–it was amazing! I’m going to tell you right now, that normally I cannot hold my liquor–never could; but this punch was something else! It was delicious, and I swear, I have never enjoyed a party more than I did last night! I had 3 cups of it! As the evening progressed I felt myself having more and more energy and I was so HAPPY! I started to wonder why I even drink coffee! The last of the guests left at midnight and I still wasn’t ready to go to bed until 2 a.m.! I realize this is probably not a normal reaction to this punch, but I can already tell that it’s going to be a regular punch at future parties! Thanks so much for this recipe!

    • says

      Oh my gosh, you are so funny. It’s so funny you say this though because I actually made the punch yesterday too for a small gathering with my in-laws, cousins and a few friends, and it was a huge hit, and I also found myself drinking more of it than I might otherwise, and last night I was totally WIRED! I got into bed at 10:30 and was still reading at midnight. I finally just turned off the light and closed my eyes because I just wasn’t feeling tired but I knew I was. What is it about this punch?! Have we discovered an alternative to caffeine? I could get into this :) Merry Christmas, Tracey!

      • Lisa See says

        Sugar…that’s why it’s addictive and gets you so wired.

        I ran across the Fish House Punch in a old Heritage of America cookbook a couple years back and was intrigued to make a mental note of it. I have not tried it so thanks for the memory jog.

  7. Kathrin says

    Does not serve 6! Serves 1!! I am barely able to move and have no side dish for dinner now, but WOW, these are incredible!

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