It is hard, when the acorns are cracking and rolling underfoot, and when the skies are one day so blue they hurt and the next like soggy wet cardboard the color of soft grey flannel, and when the leaves bank against the porch steps and the Fire bush goes ruby, not to get a little nostalgic. Is anyone immune to this? Truth is, I can get nostalgic about almost anything. Like Brussels Sprouts.

Insert sound of trumpet here. It's three years ago and you are sitting in my kitchen sipping a glass of Pinot Noir while I finish cooking dinner. I am making Brussels Sprouts. Small confession, I love veggies, but until recently I did not love Brussels Sprouts. It's not that I found them offensive exactly, and they did not set off my gag reflex (sorry cilantro), but I did not love them. I was always happy enough to eat them hidden in one of my soups along side a rich roux and smoky spices. They somehow blended well into the velvety stews. In fact they almost disappeared making them quite easy to tolerate. They were always kinda interesting to look at, and I always felt rather healthy by eating them, even if I did have to choke them down when I was younger.

So, I ate them but did not enjoy them. Many apologies to all the awesome lunch ladies, but I'm pretty sure the cafeteria at Newberry Elementary School, circa 1960, is to blame. I remember dreary piles of Brussels sprouts leaves cooked to death and slumping forlornly, almost apologetically, in their little compartment of the brownish melamine lunch tray.  I looked at their limp and drab exterior, utterly unappetizing, and occasionally gave them a nudge with my fork.  They yielded immediately, like pudding, and slid right back off the fork.  We got off on the wrong foot, Brussels sprouts and I, and I’m afraid now that I wasted a lot of years holding a grudge. Because a few years ago I went on a Brussels sprouts bender. I’m not sure what changed for me, exactly. Perhaps when I saw the cool way they grew on their own stem and they always seemed to show up just when I need them most, in the fall  when the weather turns cool, and the corn goes south. Either way, I just want to do right by them.  Maybe something clicked for me when the hubs said, “I love Brussels sprouts because they are the most vegetable-y of all the vegetables.”  And Dude!!! he’s right, because when you cook them right, Brussels sprout's flavor is green and clean and bright, the very essence of fresh.  Maybe it’s because now, as I get older, I don’t want to waste any more time being virtuous.  What I want is joy at the table, a strong healthy body, a curious mind, an open heart, and a rich family life. I swear I’m finding all that in Brussels sprouts.

So now I am a sucker for  Brussels Sprouts. They may still be homely little things, all green at the gills and hard-headed, but they are bewitching. If you’ve ever tried them hashed with poppy seeds and lemon, you’ll know what I mean. or braised in cream!!! They also happens to be righteously easy, which leaves plenty of time for fussing over your Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey, your sweet potato biscuits, or that punch bowl of boozy egg nog. You could even prep the sprouts a day ahead: rinse, trim, and quarter them, and then stash them in a sealed plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Thirty minutes before dinnertime, get out the skillet and fire up the stove. From there, the sprouts practically cook themselves, shaking off their tough, bitter crunch in a Jacuzzi bath of cream. They emerge completely relaxed, fork-tender, loosely cloaked in an ivory glaze, their pungency diffused by butterfat and a slow, patient braise. bewitching. see, nostalgic. about Brussels Sprouts.


so just to get you started down Brussels Sprouts Lane, I give you three recipes that I love. My stomach literally coos like a baby at the thought of them. I could devour a plate of any one of these and never look back.

Brussels Sprouts in mustard butter

    for Mustard Butter:

    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1 large shallot, finely chopped
    Salt and pepper

    For brussels sprouts:
    1 pound brussels sprouts
    1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, bruised in a mortar

Prepare mustard butter, in a small bowl combine the butter, parsley, garlic, mustard and shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside 1/4 cup Mustard Butter; reserve the rest for another use.
Prepare sprouts. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the sprouts, pulling off any wilted leaves, and cut an X in the bottom of each or slice in half. Salt the boiling water, add the sprouts, and cook until tender, 6-8 minutes. Drain and shake off the excess water. Toss with the reserved 1/4 cup Mustard Butter and caraway seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts

First things first: buy good sprouts. They should feel firm and have tight, shiny-edged leaves. I like to buy medium-size ones, with heads that measure, say, 1 to 1 ¼ inches in diameter. You could buy littler ones, if you like, but don’t buy them any bigger. I find that the larger they are, the stronger – i.e. more bitter – their flavor.

1 ¼ lb. Brussels sprouts
3 Tbs unsalted butter
¼ tsp coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

First, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem end of each sprout and pull off any ragged or nasty outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges.

In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes or so. I like mine to get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor.

Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low or medium low: you want to keep the pan at a slow simmer. Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.

Remove the lid, and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the sprouts. Serve immediately.

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon 

About 1 ¼ lbs Brussels sprouts
1 ½ Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs poppy seeds
¼ cup white wine
¼ tsp salt

Cut the stems from the Brussels sprouts and remove any blemished leaves. When all the sprouts are trimmed, you should be left with about 1 pound total. Halve each sprout lengthwise, and slice each half into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick; or, alternatively, hash them in a food processor fitted with the slicing disc attachment.

In a large bowl, toss the hashed Brussels sprouts with the lemon juice.

In a large skillet or sauté pan, warm the olive oil over high heat, almost to the smoking point. Stir in the hashed sprouts, garlic, and poppy seeds. Add the wine, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sprouts are bright green and lightly softened but still barely crunchy. Reduce the heat to low, season with salt, and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat, and serve.


Popular Posts