Early in my marriage, I remember walking with my husband and our dog in our neighborhood. A family had a garden in their front yard and I always enjoyed checking on its progress.
This family grew Brussels sprouts, which looked like little cabbages growing up a thick green stalk. I thought they were pretty and really wanted to grow some of our own.
But my husband’s family hated Brussels sprouts, so I let that idea die for a while.
Brussels sprouts are one of those foods that used to be forced on kids, like liver and onions and sometimes broccoli without any toppings.
If you remember adults telling you, “Now, you be a good little kid. Eat your Brussels sprouts or you won’t get any dessert?” you know what I mean.
Personally, I really liked a good liver and onions, but for me most things taste amazing if cooked properly. For Brussels sprouts, that’s true too. They’re actually good if cooked properly.
Brussels sprouts are named after Brussels, Belgium, where it is believed they were first widely cultivated in the 16th century.
These “mini cabbages” can be extremely bitter due to sulfur-containing compounds, according to Harvard University. Overcooking the vegetable, particularly by boiling, intensifies any bitter flavors and unpleasant odors.
When cooked properly, Brussels sprouts offer a nutty sweetness. I first had properly cooked Brussel sprouts in culinary school, sauteed in bacon and salt and pepper. I also watched a lot of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.” He’s a Georgia native who showed people how to make amazing food on his show, but also geeked out with the science behind food. He first made Brussels sprouts cool in my house.
A few years ago, my oldest child sealed their place in our kitchen during one family meal in which I served roasted Brussels sprouts. I got my kids to eat the dreaded sprouts and, for some bizarre reason, they wanted more! Huzzah!
If you’ve put off eating Brussels sprouts since your childhood or just avoid them in general, I encourage you to try again, maybe with one of the recipes below. You won’t be disappointed.
Enjoy your culinary adventure!
BRUSSELS SPROUTS GRATIN
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
salt and ground black pepper to taste
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, cut into tiny pieces
■ Preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish.
■ Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts. Cook uncovered until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immediately immerse in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the Brussels sprouts are cold, drain well, and cut in halves or quarters, depending on size. Set aside.
■ Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until limp and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in the Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper then toss for about 1 minutes to evenly distribute the seasonings.
■ Arrange bacon and Brussels sprouts on a baking dish. Pour cream evenly over the Brussels sprouts.
■ Sprinkle breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese on top. Distribute pieces of butter over the bread crumbs.
■ Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and heated through, 20 to 25 minutes.
HONEY DIJON BRUSSELS SPROUTS
10 Brussels sprouts, halved
1 ½ teaspoons butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch dried dill weed
1 pinch onion powder
■ Place Brussels sprouts into a medium-sized pot filled with lightly salted water.
■ Boil over medium high heat until Brussels sprouts are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes; drain.
■ Mix butter, honey, Dijon mustard, onion powder and dill weed in a large bowl.
■ Toss Brussels sprouts in mustard mixture to coat.
BRAISED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON
¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
½ cup crumbled cooked bacon
2 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Chardonnay wine
■ Melt butter with olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
■ Saute onion and garlic in butter mixture until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and saute until slightly brown on edges, 5 to 10 minutes.
■ Sprinkle bacon, chicken bouillon, red pepper flakes and black pepper over the sprouts mixture; stir and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
■ Pour wine over the mixture, reduce heat to low, place a lid on the pot, and simmer until the sprouts are desired tenderness, 10 to 15 minutes.