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How To Make Brussels Sprouts That Aren’t Gross

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Hate brussels sprouts? So did I. But I also don’t like being a picky eater, so I was determined to learn to like these little devils.

This is the recipe that finally made me love brussels sprouts. Bacon makes anything taste good, but these days I appreciate the sprouts even without it.

Buy the freshest brussels sprouts you can get your hands on, preferably from your local farmers market. Like any vegetable the fresher it is, the tastier and more nutritious it will be. I usually buy a pound or so. The smaller they are, the better (sweeter and less bitter) they taste.

The secret is to halve and blanch the sprouts before cooking them with other ingredients. This helps them cook through and gets rid of the nasty, bitter taste that can be so characteristic of sprouts. The other trick is to balance the remaining bitter flavor with an acid like lemon or red wine vinegar. Oh, and did I mention bacon?

I prefer to purchase my bacon from a local butcher. Get two slices, but for a larger batch of sprouts increase it to three.

This recipe is delicious with either walnuts or hazel nuts. If you decide on hazel nuts, I prefer to toast them in the oven first (350 degrees) until the skins start to turn dark and crack, about 10-15 minutes. I then roll them in a paper towel or plastic wrap to separate the skins from the nuts. Don’t worry if all the skins don’t come off, they’ll still taste good.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon


Blanching Brussels Sprouts

Start some water boiling and add a few pinches of salt. Rinse and halve your brus sprouts. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add sprouts and set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes. Do not rely on yourself to remember, overcooking at this stage will ruin your meal. Boil sprouts exactly 5 minutes, rinse with cold water, strain and set aside.

In the meantime, chop cipollini onions (or leeks) and the nuts. Slice bacon (pieces stacked) into half inch slices.

Heat a pan on medium heat and add bacon slices. Allow bacon to cook about 4-5 minutes, until fat starts to render in the pan. Add the nuts and stir. If you are using cipollini onions, add those too (wait if you are using leeks).

Cook nuts and bacon until the bacon is almost done, then add butter. You can add leeks at this point or skip this step and add Brussels sprouts directly. When leeks just begin to soften (about 1 minute), add Brussels sprouts, sea salt and pepper.

Stir sprouts and turn most of them so their cut faces are resting against the pan. I strongly recommend using tongs for this. After about 2 minutes, stir the sprouts and sprinkle on oregano. Continue to cook, stirring every 2 minutes or so until the faces of the sprouts are all browned and onions begin to caramelize, 8-10 minutes. In the last 3 to 4 minutes, add vinegar (or lemon). This step is essential to cut any last bit of bitterness remaining in the sprouts. Use the taste test to determine precise cooking time (depending on the size of the sprouts).

Brussels sprouts pair beautifully with almost any protein. Pork, chicken and fish work especially well. Here they are served with French green lentils.

How did you learn to love brussels sprouts?

Originally published October 27, 2008.