Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to Brussels sprouts. Say “Hi, Brussels sprouts.”
“Hi, Brussels sprouts.”
So. Let’s talk about our lovely little fellows, here.
How do they taste?
It’s just a tiny cabbage. Nothing fancy. Now, sure… that big raw cabbage taste is packed into that little tiny bite, but it’s still just a cabbage. If you’re going to bite into it raw to get a bit of the taste, it is strongly recommended that you cut off a leaf or a tiny portion. The toughness of a regular uncooked Brussels sprout is enough to cause your gums to bleed, especially if you’re not used to raw veggies.
How do I choose quality Brussels sprouts?
Lucky you, you have options. Brussels sprouts are sold inexpensively in the frozen foods section of Whole Foods, and also come wrapped in the fresh produce section of your Trader Joe’s.
If you’re choosing sprouts that have already been cut and are fresh, you want to look for sprouts that look like the cut separating them from the stalk (see photo above) is fresh, not soggy or wilted. If you see yellow on the outside of your sprout, it might be a sign that it’s old. It should feel dense, like there’s a whole lot packed in that little sprout. The smaller the sprout, the better the flavor. If it feels light or the leaves appear to be loose, it might be rotted inside. You don’t want that.
You can also purchase them fresh on the stalk, as pictured above, which is ideal. (It’s always ideal to keep things on the stalk or vine for as long as possible.) No biggie, you’ll just have to cut each sprout off the stalk individually. No part of the stalk should appear to be soft, muddled or wilted. Little broken pieces are fine, though.
How do I store them after purchase?
Brussels sprouts, if fresh, shouldn’t be left out. Do like the groceries – freeze ’em. They keep exceptionally well, there.
What goes well with Brussels sprouts?
Things that can counteract that cabbage-y tang work best, and wintery sweets – like apples and almonds – often always win. Of course, you can always quarter your sprouts (cut each sprout into four pieces) and put them into a soup, but still. You don’t want to do just that. You want variety. And, since Brussels sprouts are exceptionally inexpensive in the winter, you want to make proper use of the cheap stuff when it’s at its cheapest. I can dig it.
Also, as much as it pains me to say this… bacon goes really well with sprouts. Turkey bacon, too. (If you have questions about turkey bacon, start here.) And, speaking of which…
How can I cook these Brussels sprouts I’ve bought for the boot camp?
If there’s one thing I can tell you… is that I don’t do anything to Brussels sprouts – roasting, frying, whatever – without blanching them first. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First thing’s first: grab a giant pot, fill it half way with water. Bring it to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water large enough to submerge all of your brussels sprouts.
You’ll need approximately 4-5 cups of sprouts, two baseball-sized onions and approximately 8 strips of [turkey] bacon for this recipe. If you’ve purchased fresh Brussels sprouts, you’ll need to make two cuts in them: One cut to separate the stem of the sprout from the head, and another cut to split the head into two. The reason for this is the stem is extremely thick, and it has a huge effect on the length of time it takes to cook the individual sprout. Also, it’s a bit of a pain to chew. If it feels wasteful, save the ends in the freezer. When you become better at cooking sprouts the way you and your family likes them best, cook them then.
If your sprouts are frozen and unthawed, you’ll just go right into the blanching; frozen veggies are flash frozen anyway, which sometimes includes the blanching process, so this has, essentially, been made easier for you.
If your sprouts are frozen and thawed, go ahead and drop them in the boil for 15 or so seconds. Just enough to make sure they are cooked through thoroughly.
The next steps are, essentially, how you blanche Brussels sprouts.
You’re going to dump your batch of fully-cut sprouts into the water. It should look like this:
Your sprouts are going to quickly cook through lightly without becoming soggy and faded. You’re going for that nice, bright green color. Once your sprouts look like this:
You’re going to pour your sprouts into a sieve where they can drain, and immediately put them into your cold water.
This is also referred to as “shocking” your veggies, which stops them from cooking. We only want them lightly cooked through, not soggy and not watered down. Because the sprouts are so dense, if we didn’t “shock” them with the cold water and remove the heat, they’d still continue to cook from within, and eventually overcook.
This is blanching. I wouldn’t do anything to brussels sprouts without doing this first. It ensures even cooking, and the best flavor.
Meanwhile, chop up a couple of onions, and get your skillet ready, on medium heat.
You’re going to pour a little water into your skillet – literally a quarter (1/4) of a cup – and bring it to a boil. Drop your onions in the skillet, and let them wilt a bit and become translucent. Once translucent, add 1 tablespoon of organic canola oil, and continue to stir, carmelizing the onions.
(I use part water and part oil as a way of cutting the amount of oil necessary in the dish. More on that later.)
Now, it’s time for the [turkey] bacon. Pull out your entire packet. Slap in on your cutting surface. Get to choppin’.
Check your onions. Once your onions start to look more brownish, and start to smell sweet instead of bitter, like so —
— you’ll want to toss your [turkey] bacon into the pan, and start cooking.
Add a tablespoon of thyme, a teaspoon and a half of rosemary, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook your [turkey] bacon all the way through. Don’t worry. The onions can take it.
If it starts looking dry, add organic canola oil by the teaspoon, stirring thoroughly.
Now… add in your sprouts.
Keep them on the heat, stirring frequently. You want to reheat your sprouts, but in the sweetness and smokiness of the [turkey] bacon and onions. Winning.
You can add anything from almond slivers to candied pecans (just be careful with how you candy them) to apple slices in here, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. But, as a starter intro to brussels sprouts, this is pretty darn good.
Add another pinch of salt over the top of the entire dish – that mans you need to be careful to extend that pinch over the entire dish, not just “get another pinch” of your pinch runs out – and stir it one last good time in the skillet.
Before you know it…
Plate up. Dig in.