Simple tricks for perfect Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts can generate some pretty strong opinions. As with cilantro or goat cheese, you either love them or hate them.
The little stinkers are the smallest of the crucifers and, when prepared incorrectly, can develop a scary aroma and deadly taste. Weirdly, they somehow remain a perennial feature on many Thanksgiving menus.
In fairness, it's hard to cook Brussels sprouts to their best advantage because they are so densely constructed. By the time the heat gets to the core, there's a good chance that the outside has been overcooked.
It used to be that I had no better idea about what to do with them than anyone else. I just followed the procedure I learned in cooking school - trim them, use a knife to score the bottom in a crisscross pattern 1/4 inch deep (so they cook more evenly), and boil or steam them until done. The results were not exactly inspiring.
It wasn't until the Two Hot Tamales showed me a better way that I fell in love. The Tamales - chefs Sue Fenniger and Mary Sue Milliken, the co-hosts of their own show on the Food Network once upon a time - sliced the sprouts very thin, then quickly sauteed them. And I do mean quickly - 3 to 5 minutes in the pan and they're good to go.
The simplicity of this technique is, of course, a huge bonus on Thanksgiving Day, when you are trying to cook 500 other dishes at the same time. You can either pre-saute the sprouts, then quickly reheat them when the moment is right, or just cook them from start to finish while someone else is carving the turkey.
Even more impressive than the process is the result - the surprising deliciousness of these shredded sauteed Brussels sprouts. You don't need a lot of fat to cook them in, and the little guys pair up nicely with all sorts of toasted nuts. I've opted for walnuts in this recipe, but swap in your favorite. And a tart little spritz of lemon provides the finishing touch.
Take my word for it; when it comes to Brussels sprouts, this recipe has turned haters into believers over and over again.
By the way, who put the Brussels in Brussels sprouts? The Belgians, of course. The sprouts were first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium in the late 1500s, and introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s.
Quick Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Walnuts and Lemon
Start to finish: 15 minutes. Serves 6.
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Put the walnuts in a pie plate and toast them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are fragrant and are a shade darker.
Trim the Brussels sprouts and discard any damaged outside leaves. Use a food processor fitted with the thin slicing blade to shred the sprouts.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the sprouts and lemon zest, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. The pan will seem very crowded in the beginning, but the Brussels sprouts will shrink down quickly. Season with salt and pepper, 1 to 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and the walnuts. Serve right away.
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