Brussels sprouts (aptly named for their prevalence in Belgium in the 16th century) are often considered the epitome of gross food. Every time a cartoon character has to eat something icky, every time someone wants to complain about a childhood dinner requirement, every time a parent wants to issue a threat to inspire fear into a child’s heart, it always falls on poor, misunderstood Brussels sprouts to be the bad guy.
This is especially unfortunate because it has implanted a dislike of Brussels sprouts in tons of people who have never even eaten them—or at least have never eaten them prepared well! My father was a victim of this stereotype. Unfortunately, my grandma did not know any better than the boiling method. As a result, my brother and I were spared the vegetable growing up and we assumed that if Dad (a foodie and not the least bit picky) didn’t like them, then they must be pretty bad. It wasn’t until I went to college and really started seeking out new recipes and tastes to take advantage of my kitchen when I discovered how tasty these little guys can be! Now I want to eradicate this damaging prejudice from everyone’s hearts, so all can embrace these delicious and healthy little cabbages.
Luckily, we can be the change we want to see in the world here. First, I will tell you the best ways to prepare the sprouts for maximum deliciousness (including some tasty recipes at the bottom). Then, having (hopefully) seen the light, you can prepare and enjoy some delicious Brussels sprouts to share with disbelieving friends.
The trick to enjoying Brussels sprouts is simple: Do not boil or steam them.
Think of the little guys like tofu—would you enjoy tofu, just boiled or steamed in water? No. (Unless, of course, you like bland things, in which case you probably already like Brussels sprouts: rock on!) The deliciousness of tofu comes from sponging up tasty sauces and spices, and the same holds true for Brussels sprouts. You can add whatever you want to them: brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, cinnamon and cloves, Worcestershire sauce, whatever, and they’ll taste delicious.
So here is how to prepare them:
1. Buy a bag at whatever grocery store/farmer’s market you frequent and give them a good wash in the sink.
2. Place them on a cutting board and use a nice, sharp kitchen knife to cut off the ends—that’s the whitish, dirty-looking end, not the round leafy one—and chuck that in the trash or compost. If your Brussels sprouts look bigger than you would comfortably eat in one bite, you might want to cut them in half lengthwise as well. This also gives them a nice flat side to sit on the pan and get that lovely, brown, roasted color.
3. Once they are clean and cut, put them in a bowl and pour in a dollop or two of oil (vegetable, olive, or other). You want just enough to coat the sprouts and keep them from sticking to your pan. Then, add in your flavoring of choice: classic salt and pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon, honey and balsamic vinegar—the possibilities are endless. Mix it all up with a spoon (or your fingers). You want the whole surface of the sprouts covered so they can soak up all of the flavors.Many people favor sautéed Brussels sprouts with garlic and onion, shallots, or a tasty meat like pancetta and bacon (see recipes below).
4. At this point, I like to sauté the Brussels sprouts for about 5 minutes. Sauté is just a fancy French word for cooking in a pan with a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil on a medium heat, and moving them around a bit with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking.
5. After sautéing the Brussels sprouts, I like to put them into a 400º oven for approximately 30 minutes to roast them. When you try this method, keep an eye on them after minute 20 and assess how brown they are: you must take them out when they are chewable, but not burnt. Some folks turn them after 15 or 20 minutes to get an even browning, but I like mine with just the cut side browned.
Alternate Option: Some recipes call for you to sauté the Brussels sprouts until they’re browned to your liking. Then add a few tablespoons of water and continue cooking them for another 8 minutes or so. If you choose this method, be aware of how adding water may affect your flavoring.
6. Pull them out when they’re to your liking and serve!
Some favorite Brussels Sprout recipes:
- Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Soy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Brown Sugar Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
- Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pistachios
Remember there are lots of ways to make Brussels sprouts delicious; so don’t be afraid to try different things until you find something you like!
Photo by Emily Knight