My mom hates Brussels sprouts because they unearth memories of the ones from the frozen food aisle that she was forced to eat as a kid. But such bitter parcels of mush resemble fresh Brussels sprouts about as much as Amtrak resembles the TGV.
Brussels sprouts are having a bit of a renaissance. It seems like every restaurant that is courting high-waisted hordes of gastrohipsters has a version of charred Brussels on the menu. Cooks are creating great versions but sometimes the charring can get competitive and extreme. I ate some sprouts at a Seattle cocktail den that were so torched their texture resembled dried thistle husks and they disintegrated into tiny shards between my teeth.
I’m not here to knock browned Brussels as a concept. Getting them good and brown carmelizes and sweetens them. Add some shallots and salty bits of smoked pork and it doesn’t get much better. (Though my mom still might beg to differ.) But if you feel like blackened Brussels sprouts are getting to be as tired as ironic mustaches, here are a couple of simple recipes from Nigel Slater’s Tender that are worth trying out. Both recipes highlight different dimensions of Brussels flavor. The first is centered on the crisp sweetness of uncooked sprouts and the second harnesses the rich, broccoli-like flavor that Brussels exude when baked with cheese and cream.
A salad of sprouts, bacon and pecans
This is basically a slaw made with sprouts instead of cabbage and it is very satisfying.
- 5 slices bacon
- 7 ounces Brussels sprouts
- 1 large carrot
- 2 green onions
- 2 Tbs shelled pecans
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 Tbs peanut oil
- 1 Tbs walnut oil
- 1 small bunch of parsley
- salt and pepper
Broil the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet until lightly crisp. This is a great way to do bacon as long as you watch it and don’t overcook. Drain the cooked slices on paper towels and then cut them into strips.
Wash the sprouts and pare away all bad parts. Send any aphids or slugs packing. Cut off the stalk ends and remove loose outer leaves. Then sliver them on the thinnest setting on a mandoline, or slice them thin as possible lengthwise with a very sharp knife.
Wash the carrot and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible with a mandoline or vegetable peeler. Finely slice the green onions. In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, oils, chopped parsley and salt and pepper until combined. Toss vegetables, nuts and bacon together with dressing, taste and adjust seasoning.
- 1 1/14 lbs. Brussels sprouts
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Clean the sprouts and remove tough stem ends and loose outer leaves. Boil sprouts at a good clip for 4 minutes, then drain. Coarsely chop sprouts in a food processor with a little salt and pepper. They should still have texture. You don’t want a puree. Stir in a pinch of nutmeg, the cream and most of the cheese. Spoon into a baking dish and sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden.