The Truth About Brussels Sprouts
Winter isn't just coming, it's actually here in a serious way, and that means that while technically you can eat brussels sprouts all year round (since growing seasons don’t actually exist anymore) sprouts are now an unstoppable force and sometime in the next two months you’ll be confronted with them on your plate, staring up at you with their brussely eyes.
They're watching you...Considering how much people hate brussels sprouts, it's no surprise that they arrived in North America courtesy of the French. Originating in Louisiana, these miniature cabbages started growing all over the place and their hardiness and high nutritional value resulted in them being forced down the throats of millions of horrified children all over the continent.
These days, brussels sprouts are regarded as culinary poison, but it doesn't have to be this way. They're actually the best vegetables of the winter, and the problem lies not with them but with us: we don't know how to cook them.
In the interest of international peace and goodwill among all peoples, here are my tips for cooking brussels sprouts:
- Never boil brussels sprouts. They don't just look like tiny cabbages, they actually are tiny cabbages and if you boil them for even a second too long they release glucosinolate sinigrin. This is a sulfurous, organic compound that makes them stink and it’s the scientific cause of the gag reflex most people experience when they think about eating brussels sprouts.
- Don't buy frozen brussels sprouts. Buy brussels sprouts either attached to the stalk or loose in a container. Either way is fine. The trick is to find small brussels sprouts. Small ones will cook through without overcooking and releasing the dreaded glucosinolate sinigrin. If you can't find small, at least try to find ones that are similarly sized so they'll cook evenly.
- Prepping brussels sprouts is easy. Just wash them and slice a deep "X" into their base, which allows the heat to penetrate them more deeply when cooking.
- Roast them! Never boil. Never steam! Roast. Just toss them with some olive oil and salt and pepper and throw them in the oven on 350 until the outer leaves turn crispy and brown.
- Or you can pan fry them. The trick here is to slice them in half, toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper, then cook them for about 5 minutes on low to medium heat. That's to get them cooked all the way through. Then turn up the heat and stir them around for about 5 minutes until there's some char on all sides.
- If you're feeling really fancy, you can pan roast them with maple syrup. Cook them as above, for five minutes on a medium heat. Then add one stick of unsalted butter (cut up) and two tablespoons of brown sugar. Turn up the heat and stir it all together until the sugar has pretty much melted. Then pour in a 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Cook for about 5 more minutes, maybe 6. Pour in 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and cook quickly until it's hot again, then scoop out the brussels sprouts with a slotted spoon, bring the remaining liquid to a boil and finish by pouring it over the sprouts and serve. The result is a sweet dish that complements the bitterness of the sprouts.
The difference between love and hate is texture: no one wants soft, squishy, boiled cabbage. Everyone wants crispy, roasted, crunchy brussels sprouts. It really is that simple.