No need to hold your nose while eating these Brussels sprouts

I love Brussels sprouts.

I love them pickled, roasted, steamed or boiled, each one a perfect bite of sultry, cruciferous deliciousness.

But many, many people do not feel the same. These unfortunates likely were tortured as children by having to choke down overcooked, olive green, smelly, mushy orbs that were called Brussels sprouts but really have absolutely nothing in common with Brussels sprouts that are properly cooked.

If you are served a Brussels sprout that has turned the color of a Boy Scout tent, it’s best not to eat it. Just turn away and don’t look back. A well cooked Brussels sprout is bright green and tender, but not soft.

When buying, you want them to be on the small side and the tiny heads should be tightly closed, like mini cabbages but darker green. If you’re going to cook them whole, slice the dried bit off the bottom then poke an X into the stem end with the tip of a sharp knife. The outer leaves cook much more quickly than the inside does. The X allows for more even cooking by providing a path for the heat to get inside.

When preparing them for roasting, after trimming the ends, I cut each sprout in half the long way, through the stem. I throw the halves into a roasting pan, coat them with olive oil and add some salt and pepper, then pop them into a 450 degree oven. Check on them after about 5 minutes, giving them a stir. Depending on their size, cook them another 5 or 10 minutes, stirring as needed, until they’re tender. Roasting really brings out the nuttiness of the sprouts, almost turning them into a whole new vegetable.

In my collection, this recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Maple-Mustard Sauce is a copy of a long ago newspaper clipping. It doesn’t say where the original recipe came from but a few Googles led me to believe it is from a cookbook called “Thanksgiving Dinner” by Anthony Dias Blue and Kathryn K. Blue.

The rich tanginess of the two kinds of mustard and two vinegars, combined with the sweet, earthiness of the maple syrup really compliment the Brussels sprouts. If you don’t want 10 servings, cut the amount of sprouts in half but make the full amount of sauce. It keeps in the refrigerator for quite a while and allows you to make the same recipe again, a couple of weeks later, with half the work already done.

The Blues call for boiling the sprouts, which I very often do. After they're cooked, I cut them in half before I dress them to make for daintier bites and for more surface area to collect that amazing sauce. You also can roast the sprouts and dress them with this sauce. Either way, they’re delicious.

Brussels Sprouts With Maple-Mustard Sauce

Makes 10 servings

4 cups (2 pounds) Brussels sprouts

2½ teaspoons salt (divided)

2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar (I use rice wine vinegar)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup (only the real stuff will do)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ cup olive oil

Trim the Brussels sprouts by cutting an X in the stalk end and removing any loose or wilted outer leaves. Drop the sprouts into a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring the water back to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain thoroughly, letting the sprouts cool for a few minutes. (After they’ve cooled a bit, I cut them in half through the stem end.)

Meanwhile, mix the vinegars, syrup, mustards, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk thoroughly. Slowly add the oil, a few drops at a time, in a thin, steady stream, as you whisk. The mixture will get thicker and lighter in color as the oil and vinegar emulsify.

Add the Brussels sprouts to the bowl containing the sauce. Toss well to coat each sprout. Serve at room temperature.

Original recipe from “Thanksgiving Dinner” by Anthony Dias Blue and Kathryn K. Blue.

Jill Blanchette works at night at The Day. Share comments or recipes with her at j.blanchette@theday.com.

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