Brussels sprouts are complicated. They’re both hip and hated. They can be sublime or inedible. You’ll find their sweet nature on the menu of the latest gastropub, or piled high in a stinky mess at the worst of the the mass market buffets. This unfortunate dichotomy has left them with a bit of an identity crisis. This is not their fault. But it can leave the home cook scratching his or her head wondering what the secret is to Brussels sprouts.
It’s true many people are afraid of Brussels sprouts, horrified even. Because they are often prepared in a horrifying manner– over-boiled. Boiling for long lengths of time really does not suit Brussels sprouts. That is because they’re technically a cruciferous vegetable. Which is a fancy way of saying cabbage. As we all know, boiled cabbage can be stinky and mushy. So too, Brussels sprouts. In fact, in French they are called les choux de Bruxelles, which means cabbages of Brussels. So all the mistakes people make cooking cabbage can be amplified in these little cabbages.
Cruciferous vegetables get their name because their flowers have 4 petals and look like a cross (crucifix). Other cruciferous vegetables include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnip greens, and watercress. Now doesn’t this list look a lot like the list your doctor uses when he/she says you should eat more dark, leafy greens?
Well listen to your doctor because cruciferous veggies all contain phytochemicals — vitamins and minerals, and lots of healthy fiber which some studies suggest lower your risk of cancer.
Unfortunately, these phytochemicals break down somewhat in cooking. This lessens their health benefits, and can also release a vile sulphery smell. Many people can’t get past the smell.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of great ways to cook Brussels sprouts. One of the simplest is also one of the tastiest. I like to toss them with a little olive oil, coarse salt and cracked black pepper. I then roast them in a 400-degree oven til they get browned and crackly. A hot oven ensures you’ll get good caramelization on the outside without cooking the insides to a smelly pulp. GREG
It’s been at least a decade since I have prepared brussels sprouts. You make me want to try cooking them again. Yours looks great! Have a wonderful New Year!
Last year Christopher and I embarked on the adventure of getting to know brussels sprouts better. I wish they had been served like this to me when I was 8 since now I feel I’ve wasted a good many years hating on them. Seriously, crackly brussels sprouts leaves are THE BEST.
Although I prepare Brussels sprouts all sorts of ways, roasted is still the best. At least IMO. Add a bit of Parmesan? Heaven!
I just finished Brussels sprouts with parm and a fried egg. Always on same wave.…
yep, roasting is my favorite too — and with the flavors you have going on here, I can imagine how good they are! happy new year Greg!
My favorite way to prepare these little guys — Happy New Year!