I don’t think I even tried a Brussels sprout until I was forty. They weren’t normally available fresh in grocery stores, and they had bad press. People a little older than me still told the tales of Brussels sprouts boiled until they were slimy and bitter.
I felt lucky to have been raised in more elegant times, when we left behind Brussels sprouts with other gross food like liver and onions, and Limburger cheese.
Then I tasted sprouts roasted until crispy at a nice restaurant. Boom! Flavor explosion!
The next time I was at Whole Foods I noticed some fresh and bought them on a whim. I found a recipe on the Whole Foods website and tried it out. This was years ago, and I’ve been making that same recipe with a few modifications ever since.
By the way, sometimes you can get Brussels sprouts that are loose in a mesh bag, and other times a grocery will sell them still on the stalk they grew on. It’s like a freaky-looking green club!
This recipe makes a great side dish for beef, pork, or chicken, though I particularly like it with pork chops. Brussels sprouts are in season from September to March, so fall and winter are the best time to add them to your grocery list.
The trick to cooking Brussels sprouts is to not over cook them. At a certain point they tip from savory into sulfurous. You want them to be bright green and tender-crisp.
To prep sprouts, wash and pat dry, trim off a little of the stalk end with a paring knife, and remove any outer leaves that are dry or damaged looking. Then cut in half, or even into quarters for larger sprouts.
An iron skillet or Dutch oven are perfect for this recipe, but any large skillet that can hold everything at once while you stir will work.
Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Bacon
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, and halved
2 apples, chopped (Original recipe suggests an apple that will stay firm when cooked, like Gala or Braeburn.)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vinegar (I’ve used either balsalmic or apple cider)
4 slices of bacon
thyme, finely chopped. (Use 1 Tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried)
Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. I like to use scissors and snip directly over a skillet heated to high.
Heat skillet on high. Once hot, add bacon and cook until browned. Remove cooked bacon to a paper towel on a plate. Leave bacon fat in the pan.
Add chopped onion and apple to hot skillet and stir until softened, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove to plate with bacon.
If all the fat is gone from the skillet, add a Tablespoon of oil to skillet and let it heat until shimmering. Once skillet is hot again, add Brussels sprouts. Let sizzle for a minute, then stir.
Cook for three or four more minutes, then add back the bacon, apple, onion, along with about 1/3 cup of water, half the vinegar (about 2 Tablespoons) and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir, reduce heat to medium, cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for ten to 12 minutes. Near the end of cooking time, I like to cool a bite and test for doneness. Again, looking for a bright green and a tender-crisp bite. If it’s too hard, cook a few minutes longer.
Add the last of the vinegar and the thyme, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. When the liquid is evaporated give one final stir, then remove to serving dish and serve.
Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving
The first time I saw Brussels sprouts prepared on a cooking show, it was some Thanksgiving Throwdown between Bobby Flay and the Pioneer Woman.
As good as Bobby Flays’ Brussels sprouts looked (that sounds weird), I knew he was going to lose. Ree Drummond was making mashed potatoes loaded with butter and cream cheese. That’s a recipe I’ve been making for years for Thanksgiving. It not only makes the best mashed potatoes ever, but it also freezes well.
You can freeze mashed potatoes ahead and reduce some of your Thanksgiving meal prep stress if you use this recipe. Otherwise, potatoes that have been frozen have a mealy texture that’s non-delicious.
Still, I made BOTH for last Thanksgiving, so feel free to serve both together.