Sunday, April 14, 2013

Learning To Love Brussels Sprouts

As a child, I did not like brussels sprouts.  Let me amend that statement: I would say that I hated them.  As the years have passed, my tastes have changed and expanded, including many foods that I had not thought I'd ever choose to eat, but I still thought, "Brussels sprouts-- yuck!"  Family and friends kept touting these miniature cabbages, over and over again, until I wondered if I might have them one day and actually find they were tasty.

As I shopped one day at Little House Green Grocery in Richmond, Virginia, I found myself in front of a stalk of incredibly fresh brussels sprouts.  They intrigued me and persuaded me to buy them so they could convert me to a sprout lover.  Oh, how glad I am that I did!

I first tried to roast them with garlic and olive oil, following Mark Bittman's recipe.  Things were proceeding perfectly until I checked on them and found them burnt!  My house smelled like failure...very tasty failure.  Encouraged by the few that emerged uncharred, I tried again and tasted success.  Needless to say, I now ask people how they like to fix these little guys so I can learn new tricks.  Thankfully, they are available in the produce section of many stores, washed and ready to steam, saute, roast, or whatever you prefer.  Trader Joe's even has them julienned for you.  Yum.

This is my most recent preparation: julienned and roasted with olive oil and bacon.  So easy.  So good.

Julienned Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

  • Fresh brussels sprouts (serving size is 4 per person as a side, but I do at least 8 if I'm making a meal out of them)
  • Olive oil
  • Bacon (I used the Trader Joe's precooked applewood smoked bacon to cut out on some of the fat and mess)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
If your brussels sprouts are not prewashed, wash and dry them well.  Preheat your oven to 425.

After cutting off the base, cut each sprout in half, then cut each half into thirds.  Set aside.  Chop your bacon into bite-sized pieces.  If you're not using precooked bacon, it will be easier to chop if it is colder, and make sure to use a different cutting board so there's no cross-contamination.  

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to an overproof skillet.  I like to use a cast iron skillet, but if you do, make sure to watch the sprouts in the oven!  This is where I went wrong the first time.  Turn to medium-low and add the bacon to the pan.  When the bacon begins to sizzle, add your sprouts.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Stir the sprouts and bacon so that they are evenly coated with the olive oil (and yummy bacon fat), then sauté until they're turning a nice, bright green.  Put the skillet in the oven, checking after about 8 minutes.  

Give them a stir, then cook for another couple of minutes until the bacon is crispy, and the sprouts have begun to brown.  Watch them carefully!  They're good crispy and brown, but if they're getting too dark, take them out.

I like to serve them in a bowl with a spoon so that I can scoop up every bit.  Oh, they're so good!

Vegetarian variation: substitute butter for half of the olive oil.  You can also add garlic, and I imagine shallots would be delicious in this.  You can drizzle with balsamic vinegar or toss with some parmesan cheese as well.  Enjoy!