I just realized that in all this time of blogging, I've neglected to discuss one of life's greatest winter joys–Brussels sprouts. Ridiculous really, because at this time of year, they're never not in my larder, waiting for some opportunity to leap onto the plate--perhaps not as the main star, but certainly gaining kudos as best supporting actor. So quick and easy, so versatile. So delicious. As friend, Pooh, would say: "What's not to like about Brussels sprouts? Nothin'"
The key for these cruciferous veggies, is to be desperately careful to not over cook them, lest that horrid sulfurous smell and taste, that can happen if they're overdone, be unleashed. No, let your darling little green bulbs just be heated very quickly and very hot for the minimum possible time so that their outside layers get crunchy and brown, and their innards stay bright and vibrantly green.
This can be done either in a hot oven (450 degrees), by tossing them with a little olive oil, and loads of salt and pepper and popping them in and keeping your beady eye on them, to rescue them at the perfect point.
My preferred method, is on top of the stove, or at least, the one I seem to do most. Here's where the fun comes in. You can pair them with pancetta and walnuts and quickly saute them in a little walnut oil instead of olive oil. You can do them with butter, bacon, or you can sprinkle them at the end with pomegranate seeds for a very festive presentation at holiday time. You can finish them with a little cream, or some Parmigiano-Reggiano, or toss in some creamy prepared chestnuts right at the end for a sumptuous, elegant performance. The sky, is clearly the limit.
No matter which way, the key, to me, is preparing them for cooking. I remove their stem ends and then slice each little globe into 4 or so cross sections. I do this in advance of starting, because once the pan is on the heat, things are going to move very quickly.
Last night, I prepared them with bacon, pulled together just minutes before serving the scrumptious portobello mushroom pot roast and the cream cheese and sour cream mashed potatoes that was our Thursday night, cold-busting dinner. No, they weren't the most elaborate thing on the menu. However, when I gluttonously went back for seconds, it was only for those irresistible Brussels sprouts.
Quick Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
3 slices thick sliced center-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound Brussels sprouts
salt and freshly ground pepper
Prepare Brussels sprouts by removing stem end, and cutting each little globe into 3 or 4 cross sections.
In a large skillet, saute bacon on medium heat until fat is rendered and the bacon is crunchy and brown. Don't worry, the bacon bits will become more pliable with the moisture generated by the Brussels sprouts. Toss in the Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper, and stir quickly to combine well. Put the lid on tightly for about 2 minutes. The resulting steam will cook the Brussels sprouts through. Remove the lid and turn the heat to medium high. Stirring constantly, continue cooking until the sprouts have some crunchy brown parts but are still vibrantly green. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
Take a look at this video from my column at the Richmond Times Dispatch for another way to cook Brussel Sprouts.