Redeeming the world’s least favourite veggie — the Brussels sprout

They don't have to be your gastronomic enemy. (image courtesy foodrepublic.com)

They don’t have to be your gastronomic enemy. (image courtesy foodrepublic.com)

A quick spin around the Web the other day proved to me that I was not alone in my longtime antipathy to what has been called “cabbage’s evil cousin.” According to a 2008 survey conducted by Heinz, Brussels sprouts are the most hated vegetable in America (and Britain as well). This conclusion was supported by a casual tour of several relevant websites, including ones here and here and here.

For most of my life, I weighed in with the majority opinion. But thanks to a small restaurant in Manhattan Beach, California, my point of view was irrevocably swayed. And while I can’t promise you absolutely that yours will be as well, this may be the best bet to nudge you (and yours) toward a sprout-supporting stature.

First off, part of the reason that you probably hate Brussels sprouts is that, well, they stink. Literally. Brussels sprouts contain chemical compounds called glucosinolates, which have health benefits, but also exhibit the unfortunate tendency to release lots of sulfur the longer they’re cooked. And if you — like me — grew up during a time when vegetables were boiled until grey, you no doubt have been served at least one plate of sprouts that smelled like a skunk with gas. Bad prep = bad rep.

If, however, you roast the little green gems, they caramelize (actually, technically, they undergo a Maillard reaction), and become sort of sweeter and nuttier, free of the sulfur stink, and actually quite palatable.

Here’s how to do it.

Straight from the stalk.

Straight from the stalk.

TIN ROOF BISTRO BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Ingredients

1 lb./.5 kg Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons/45 g butter (or, if you’re dairy-challenged, Earth Balance vegan sticks)
1 teaspoon/5 g minced garlic
1 teaspoon/5 g minced anchovy (optional) — you can substitute cooked bacon, if you prefer
1 tablespoons/15 ml lemon juice
1 teaspoon/5 g capers
1 teaspoon/1 g chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of ciabatta bread (optional)
3 tablespoons/15 ml extra virgin olive oil

Sprouts going in.

Sprouts going in.

Directions

Preheat over to 350ºF/175ºC.

Remove ends and rough outer leaves from Brussels sprouts. Cut in half lengthwise. Put in bowl and add 2 tablespoons / 15 ml olive oil. Toss sprouts in oil and then lay out on sheet pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until lightly “caramelized.” Brown is good.

Sprouts coming out.

Sprouts coming out.

Brush ciabatta with remaining tablespoon / 7.5 ml olive oil. Grill or toast ciabatta.

When Brussels sprouts are roasted/caramelized, heat up small sauté pan. Melt butter (or margarine/non-dairy spread) and add garlic and anchovy (or bacon). Cook for several minutes until garlic turns a golden color. Add lemon juice, capers, parsley, and salt & pepper. Toss sprouts in sauce until thoroughly coated.

Oh, you saucy little devil, you.

Oh, you saucy little devil, you.

Place grilled ciabatta in bottom of bowl. Pour Brussels sprouts over bread, or serve without bread; they’re good either way.

There’s no way of knowing how many sprouts haters there were at Thanksgiving dinner this year, but we made a double batch (as a side dish for 12), and there were no leftovers. That kinda smells like success to me.

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