So, I know my parents talk about feeding us Brussels sprouts as kids but my very first recollection of them was in college. A friend had us to dinner at her apartment. She put Brussels in a pan with what looked like a lb of butter and then forgot about them until they were mushy. She said she wasn’t going to serve them but I tried one. It was magnificent, as absolutely anything that has drown in butter is. I declared myself a fan of the oft wrongly maligned little ball of deliciousness that night as I ate the entire pan in about three hours of casual passes through the kitchen. (It is a well known but rarely acknowledged fact that the best food is that which disappears while sitting in the kitchen.)
The most memorable recent encounter with Brussels was in NOLA at Cane and Table. We were at a table of self-described vegetable avoiders and by the end of the meal they were stabbing each other for the last collards and Brussels. The kitchen there expertly seared the rich little spheres in cast iron and then tossed them in a habanero mayo. They were not spicy but rich and amazing.
We grow Brussels so I have had a chance to experiment a bit. Here are a few things I have learned:
Frozen Brussels sprouts, like most other veggies, are not the same as fresh and cannot be used the same way.
Everything outside of salt, fat and sugar is an acquired taste so until you have a food a dozen times or so, all you can say is that you don’t like it yet.
Bacon eaters will eat anything prepared with bacon.
So, how do you prepare Brussels sprouts in a way that will be both loved by fans and has a chance of being enjoyed by detractors?
I’m glad you asked.
Fresh Brussels Sprouts, Loaded:
So this is the kind of thing I serve at Christmas.
Chop up two slices of good bacon into half inch slices and start them cooking in a metal pan over low medium heat.
Now take a quart or so of fresh Brussels, wash and halve them. Set them aside.
Finely chop a shallot and ¼ cup of pecans, mix with a couple tablespoons of dried cranberries and set aside.
Remove the bacon when it is crisp and put the bits on a paper towel. Leave the fat and add your Brussels, tossing every few minutes. The goal is not to overcook them.
Add the shallot/pecan/cranberry mix a few minutes into cooking the Brussels, when their color has turned bright.
Saute this mixture until the shallots go pale, tossing frequently. Remove to the serving dish, sprinkle with the bacon pieces, fresh pepper and, if you like it, some nice blue cheese.
*You can omit pretty much anything here and get similar effect, excepting the bacon.
Simple Fresh Brussels Sprouts:
Warm a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a stainless or cast iron pan to medium heat.
Quarter and break apart a quart of fresh Brussels.
Mince 2 cloves of garlic set aside.
Add your Brussels to the pan and stir frequently for 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook just until the garlic starts to mellow.
Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of real Balsamic, if you have it. A squeeze of a lemon wedge will do if you don’t.
(This is also a great way to make most fresh, green veggies.)
You may want to look up a recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts. They are very good. I tend to overcook them but that aside, fresh and whole with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt and they are wonderful roasted.
They are also fun shredded fresh into layer salads or slaws. They are, essentially, tiny cabbage.
Frozen Brussels sprouts do well in pasta dishes, usually halved, or, like my friend did almost 20 years ago, as a conduit for butter.
No, I do not recommend eating bacon or butter but I love Brussels and if you eat those things, introduce them to your palette or those of your loved ones however you must.
Happy eating, Katy