I’ve hesitated to make this vegetable for you because I know not everyone is a fan. I am well aware that there are a handful of foods that people either love or hate.
Lima beans. Beets. And Brussels sprouts are a few of the questionable vegetables that immediately come to mind though there are many other “controversial” foods out there.
I am in the “hate lima beans” camp. It’s true. But I do love beets. And, yes, I love, love, love Brussels sprouts. I can either thank (or blame) San Antonio’s Bruce Auden, chef and owner of Biga on the Banks for introducing me to this amazingly fabulous vegetable to which I am highly addicted. Every winter when they pop up at the grocery store and farmers markets, I pounce and repeatedly eat them in large quantities until I don’t want to see them again for another year.
Yes, Bruce showed me “the light” many years ago, and I have never forgotten his kindness. He prepared them in a way that changed my mind about this little green cabbage that can often be bitter, boring and even soggy with lackluster flavor.
Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, Brussels sprouts are related to cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, arugula, kohlrabi and bok choy. Loaded with fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, cruciferous veggies are considered super-vegetables. They have been linked to lower cancer risks and even attributed to stopping the growth of cancer cells in various forms.
These should be sufficient reasons to start loading up on such fantastic winter veggies, but, alas, it’s just not enough for some people.
So here’s what I think. I think the key to learning to love your veggies, especially the cruciferous ones, is directly related to how they are prepared. You could steam, saute, microwave, blanch or just boil. But I think not.
Roasting is the way to go. That’s the way Bruce introduced me to them and got me hooked. So maybe it will work for you, too.
The vegetables caramelize which accentuates the sweetness and earthiness and makes them succulent. Add some pork fat for flavor (or not), shallots, onions and/or garlic and you’ve got an amazing combination that is sure to win over those who would normally “ewww” and “yuck” at the sight of Brussels sprouts.
So why not give nature’s little gems another chance?
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 1-2 lbs. Brussels sprouts 1 lb. for 2 people and 2 lbs. for 4
- 1/4 lb. thick slice pancetta diced (optional, though it does make it exquisite)
- 2 shallots sliced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and root end cut off
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Wash and rinse the Brussels sprouts well.
Cut the ends of all of them and, for the larger ones, cut them in half and leave the smaller ones whole. Place them on the baking sheet and add the diced pancetta.
Peel and slice the shallots. Peel the garlic and cut the root ends off and add the shallots and garlic to the Brussels sprouts. (You could slice the garlic, but I don't since I like to pop the whole thing in my mouth, plus, when they are whole David leaves them for me!)
Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and stir after 15 minutes. Cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts. You want them to caramelize and soften and you want the pancetta to cook through. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt and generously grind fresh black pepper.
Serve and dig in.