In Defense of Brussels Sprouts
There comes a time in one’s life when a singular event makes such an impact, there is time BEFORE, and time AFTER. And, every human adult’s life in Western Civilization begins with intense dislike for Brussels sprouts. At some point, either in early adulthood or even much later on in life, one might be fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the Brussels sprout and find he comes to like the pleasant delicious vegetable after all.
I can honestly say I’ve never known another fruit or vegetable that remains so divisive — there is the WE LOVE camp and the WE HATE camp. And why hate? There is nothing this humble mini-cabbage has ever done to make one hate it so much.
Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts for maximum potential:
- Buy them fresh, still attached to the stalk. They stay fresher for up to a week and a half when still attached to their stem. If you buy them loose in a bag or from the bulk bin, chances are they’ve been trimmed a week ago. They start getting bitter soon after they are cut from the stalk.
- How can you tell a good sprout from a not-so-good one? Squeeze the head between your thumb and forefinger. The tighter the sprout, the fresher and tastier it will be. If you feel something spongy with a lot of give and take, it’s lost its mojo. Too much air between the leafy layers can only mean bitterness and sadness.
- Try different methods for cooking: steaming, braising, roasting, sautéing, frying… and see which method works better for your palate.
- Add yummy aromatics like garlic, shallots, celery or caraway seeds, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes or BACON to the recipe. Their complexity complements many different flavor profiles. Find one that fits your palate.
- As a leafy green, they are downright fluffy and easy to digest. Slice them in thin ribbon-like strips for a quick sauté. They cook so fast this way!
- Just don’t EVER buy them frozen. EVER.
The recipe below is Chef Mia’s, which was inspired by a photoshoot we did one afternoon (pictured above). We liked the look and texture of both halved and sliced that we decided to keep them together in this dish. I actually made this for dinner tonight — and added julienned carrots. Delicious!
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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Serves 4 to 6
RT @DearMartini “Dear @Brussels_sprouts_haters, This is a life changer. You’re welcome. Love, us. #Baconmakeseverythingbetter”
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into ½-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste!)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Take half of the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them horizontally. Keep the remaining halves in tact. Keep them separate and set aside.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Pour off the bacon grease in a disposable container and discard.
In the same pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the halved sprouts. keep tossing the sprouts until their outsides are brown and crispy, about 7-8 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Stir in the sliced Brussels sprouts, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the sprouts turn bright green, about 5 minutes more.
Stir in the balsamic vinegar and return the bacon to the pan. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed and serve hot.