Growing up, Brussels sprouts were not welcome on my dinner plate. I can remember my parents talking about how the sprouts from Stoner’s Central Market stand were simply amazing, especially after the first frost. This befuddled me.
Years later, I stood in front of the very same market stand, scanning the produce options for my growing family. I spied those cruciferous green balls and felt a strange urge to give them another try.
I remember John Stoner holding up one of the sprouts and pointing out the white, freshly cut end. Often, the cut end is brownish and dry. Not John’s! I marveled at the pride he took in his produce, and his words stuck with me.
Be it a Brussels sprout, an artichoke, or a head of lettuce, peeking at the end where the produce was cut from the ground really does speak to its freshness and taste. And sure enough, when I cooked those sprouts that evening, something had changed. I liked them. I really liked them!
Even funnier, my then three-year-old son uttered two words that I never expected: “Oh, yum!”
My go-to method of preparing Brussels sprouts is to lightly coat them with olive oil, season liberally with fresh pepper and kosher salt, and roast at 400 degrees on an oiled baking sheet for 15 -20 minutes, depending on size. I think they taste best when the side touching the tray is golden brown but the sprouts still have a hint of firmness to them.
For an altogether different preparation, the following recipe offers a variety of textures and flavors and may be served hot or at room temperature. It’s a unique side dish–sort of like a hearty salad–and would be a welcome addition on the Thanksgiving table.
The first time I made this recipe, I had a second son and I heard those same two words again: “Oh, yum!”
- 3/4 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
- 3 slices bacon, chopped (may substitute with 2 tablespoons olive oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (could use pecans)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Thinly slice or shred the Brussels sprouts. If they are on the larger side, remove the core. (I find it easiest to slice in half first and cut an upside down “V” to remove the core.)
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp and remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Return the pan to the heat and, once hot, add the Brussels sprouts, followed by the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Spread out the sprouts and allow them to sear for a minute or so, or until the edges are starting to lightly brown and crisp. (If you are not using bacon, heat the two tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, and proceed as directed.)
Stir and continue to cook the Brussels sprouts until they are bright green and slightly wilted, or about 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the walnuts and the cranberries and toss to combine.
Sprinkle with the reserved bacon, and serve warm or at room temperature.