It has come to my attention that there is still widespread fear and loathing of brussels sprouts, one of the most delicious vegetable experiences the winter has to offer. I like few things in this world so much as brussels sprouts in any season, frankly. They are right up there for me with asparagus and artichokes.
However, like so many delicious food products, the humble brussel sprout has suffered from poor preparation. Most people seem to think that they are bitter, or mushy, or tasteless, dull to the tongue and a miserable dining experience. This most fantastic food is pushed to the side of plates nationwide, and this is a great pity.
For starters, let us speak about what makes a good brussel sprout. Size queens in the audience will be disappointed to hear this, but small sprouts are better. Why? Because the bigger the brussels sprouts, the more woody and bitter they will be, because age is an indicator of maturity. The brussels sprouts I got at the farmers’ market were small, about the size of my thumb, and perfectly glorious, sweet, and delicious.
You should also pick brussels sprouts that are a healthy green, and are tightly furled. No yellow stained leaves, no partially unfolding nonsense: you want nice, firm little brussels sprouts that shout out in a vibrant green color. From this is greatness made.
I have a favorite preparation for brussels sprouts, which I will detail below.
Start with your brussels sprouts. Wash them and halve them.
Take a cast iron pan and add butter and olive oil to it. Put the pan on medium heat until the oils start to sizzle when you flick water into it, at which point you should add the brussels sprouts. Be aware that leaves loosened by the cutting process may try to escape: hurl them back in. You can also add sliced shallots or garlic if you like, but you do not really need to.
Saute your sprouts for a minute or two, stirring around, before covering.
Lift the cover periodically to stir and fork test the brussels sprouts. They are done when the flesh yields to the fork like the legs of a virgin on prom night—you want a slight resistance, because that adds texture.
Serve immediately, dressed with salt and pepper. A pat of butter can be added. I eat this straight all the time in the winter, but it’s also really good with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, or any potato product, really. And meat. Mmm…meat.
The goal that you are going for here is slightly caramelized outer leaves, which will turn golden brown. This lends a sweetness to the brussels sprouts. Some of the leaves will also tuen crispy, which adds a fun texture to the completed dish. The end result is deliciousness incarnate.
For Pete’s sake, please do not steam brussels sprouts, or boil them. This causes them to be soggy. You may roast them in the oven if you do so with care. You might also want to try raw or marinated preparations, which arezesty and excellent as coleslaws and that sort of thing.