Friday, August 5, 2011

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts, or "Eat my sprouts? Yes please!"

If you overcook Brussels sprouts, they will taste...nasty. This can be attested to by kids all over the country (the world?) ranging in age form 5 to 96. But they still sell them, so market forces must dictate that people are still buying them, right? So, unless economics is a lie, either there is a way to cook Brussels sprouts well, or millions of Americans (and Belgians, of course) are suffering through soggy, bland, bitter sprouts with some regularity.

I kid of course. I know the sprout to be a noble, healthful vegetable that, when handled properly yield a delicious, firm, flavorful addition to a meal.

The sprout is, as you know, the bud of a kind of cabbage—a wild cabbage to be exact. Technically it is a cultivar of the species Brassicae oleracea, the same species as kale, collards, broccoli, and spinach. The sprouts, as a breed, have only been around for about 500 years (they are far younger than their kin, which date back to pre-history), and are supposedly so named because they were developed near Brussels, Belgium. They were cultivated in England in the 17th century and have been in America since the nineteenth.

Of course, in 17th century England, tasting good was hardly a prerequisite for being eaten, and I suppose it likely that those old time Brits boiled them until "tender." That was all well and good for then, but if we want to make the sprout sing on our plates, we need to do something else. I give you: the pan roasted Brussels Sprout. And the best part is: it's drop dead easy.

4 slices thick cut bacon (if you have some pancetta, feel free to sub it in, but you don't need it for this)
1 lb Brussels sprouts, rinsed and any bad leaved picked away
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed open
spritz of fresh lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper.

Cook the bacon in a large lidded skillet. When it is done (it should still be soft enough that you can stick a fork in it without shattering), romove it and drain on some paper towels. Keep the pan hot and add the sprouts and the garlic clove. Cover and let sit for a few minutes. You will want to stir them or shake the pan or something. Don't not yet. What makes these wonderful is that they pick up a slight...char seems like the wrong word, but probably isn't. Like grilled vegetables, they get that little bit of burn on them, and meanwhile the steam they let off is cooking them where they are not in contact with the pan.
After 2 or 3 minutes, shake the pan vigorously to let another part of the sprouts get the direct heat. Do this a few times.

While the sprouts are cooking, chop your cooked bacon into 1/4"-1/2" bits.

After the sprouts have cooked for 6-10 minutes, open the lid and see how beautiful they are. Give them a grind of pepper and a dash of kosher salt. Now add the bacon back to the pan and cook, shaking for another minute. Spritz with lemon juice and shake again. Serve hot.

The sprouts are, themselves, great to eat now; but take a bite with a piece of bacon, too, and the bright saltiness combined with the lemon will take it to a whole new level. the sprouts will still have a little crunch to them, which is good because mushy sprouts are icky sprouts.

I hope that you will give this a try and give this wild old cabbage a chance to show you its good side.

Oh, by the way, this technique, by the way, can be used with many vegetables. Green beans? Yes. Broccoli? Yes. Cauliflower? Yes. Asparagus? Oh, please yes!
I will do green beans exactly the same (some variance for cooking time!), but the broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, etc. are better done with a combination of half olive oil, half butter. About 3 tablespoons total. Try the asparagus with some fresh goat cheese for a great spring or summer dish.

1 comment:

Sam said...

How could that not be good. You get enough bacon and garlic together and anything will taste good.