Friday, March 6, 2009

Ode to Brussel Sprouts

How many of us remember eating brussels sprouts as a child and shiver at the memory? Truthfully, I recall liking the little green cruciferous plants. I am pretty sure my mom simply purchased the frozen variety and microwaved them, but somehow they tasted okay.

I tried doing the same as an adult and found them to taste horrible and never bought them again. While I personally love many different vegetables, the boys will only eat a few favorites. I tend to stick to what they like so that I'm not preparing many different dishes at dinnertime. However, there comes a time when one begins to grow weary of eating the same broccoli, corn, and raw carrots over and over again.

Last year I got the chance to try a brussels sprout that must have been roasted. I was amazed at how tasty I found it to be. I decided I would try it out myself at some point. I knew I didn't want to try it with frozen brussels sprouts. Every trip to the commissary only yielded sad looking sprouts. Two days ago I ended up at a different grocery store and found a selection of fresh, prepackaged brussels sprouts for only 99 cents.

I spent the afternoon searching for some instructions on how to roast these "little cabbages" as they are sometimes called. This is how I ended up preparing them:

First, I trimmed the root and cut them in half - top to bottom. Then, I rinsed them, removing all of the small bits of dirt. Into a large plastic bag they went along with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped garlic. I gave the bag some good shakes to toss everything and then spread onto a cookie sheet. Lastly, I sprinkled a bit of balsamic vinegar over the tops.

They baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. The recipes I read said to roast them until some of the outsides got really dark. When I finally pulled them out, they still weren't tender enough for my liking, but I was hungry! Here is what they looked like:

I found them to be very dry and still somewhat bitter. I'm not sure why they were dry - while they were in the oven I added more olive oil to them and afterwards I tossed them with a bit of butter. I'm thinking I should have steamed them a bit before trying to roast them so the cooking time in the oven would have been significantly less.

Brussels sprouts are suppose to be very good for you - full of vitamins A and C, as well as Folic acid and fiber. They also contain something called Sinigrin, which is supposed to help protect against colon cancer. It also appears that over cooking the sprouts will bring out said sinigrin, which smells like sulfur. Experts believe brussels sprouts have been around since the 1200s and were first brought to the United States in the 1800s by the French settling in Louisiana. (All of this information was found at Wikipedia.)

I love roasting vegetables. The roasting process really brings out the sweetness of most vegetables. Asparagus is one veggie that I only like roasted. Give them to me steamed and I will turn my nose up at them. But, toss them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them for a few minutes in the oven and I'm in heaven! I'm not quite convinced that roasting helps to make brussels sprouts palatable, but I'm willing to give them another chance.


  1. I love Brussels sprouts! They were never served to me as a child, but that's probably best, as they likely would have been like most of the other vegetables served to me in those days: from a can and boiled to a baby-food-style mush.

    I never tried them until adulthood. I love them!

    I always peel the outer layer of each sprout. (The kids do it for me now; they rather enjoy this tedious work.) Then I don't really have to clean them. Maybe I should clean them anyway, but they don't appear to be dirty once the outer layer is removed.

    There are two very similar recipes that I make, and my kids actually eat and like them! Here's the better one. It's Rachel Ray's recipe, from her "Get Togethers" book. It doesn't involve oven roasting, but rather a sort of pan-braising. I think you'll like it, and it's really quick and easy.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

    -3 slices bacon, chopped
    -1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    -2 shallots, chopped
    -1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, roots trimmed, small sprouts left whole, larger sprouts halved
    -Salt and pepper, to your taste
    -1 cup chicken broth

    1. Brown the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the bacon fat and move bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate.

    2. Add olive oil to the pan, then add the shallots, and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.

    3. Add Brussels sprouts and coat in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook Brussels sprouts 2 to 3 minutes to begin to soften.

    3. Then add broth and bring broth to a bubble. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium low. Cook about 10 minutes, until tender.

    4. Transfer sprouts to a serving dish with a slotted spoon and top with cooked bacon bits.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    You can substitute garlic for the shallots.

    I usually skip the bacon, as I'm too lazy to deal with it. It's nice to have, as it adds a bit of saltiness and crunch, but it's not necessary.

    It seems that the chicken broth really cuts the bitterness out of the sprouts. It's really yummy.

    Let me know if you find a roasting recipe that works well. I've eaten them that way too, but I didn't think to ask the cook for her method.

  2. I don't think I'll ever get to the point of "loving" them, but maybe I can "like" them.

    Thanks for posting the recipe Ang! I'll definitely give it a try. Sully did try one when I made them, but Owen wouldn't even do that.


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