Serves four or more. You’ll need:
- Brussels sprouts.
- Olive oil.
- Brown sugar.
- Balsamic vinegar.
- Cayenne pepper.
I’m sick to death of people telling me they hate Brussels sprouts.
OF COURSE you hate them, you were probably force fed really badly cooked side dishes as a kid, and had to sit at the dinner table until you ate them all. Coincidentally, this is what Donald Rumsfeld recommended for interrogations at Gitmo.
So, okay, let’s fix that nonsense. If you’ve ever had to choke down a chewy, flavorless Brussels sprout, then you’ll be happy to know that those little green buggers can be made into a savory delight.
This recipe makes a great Thanksgiving dish, but you can eat it everyday, for as easy as this is to make.
First, you need some sprouts. You can get these in small bags from the grocery store, or around the holidays, Trader Joe’s sells them right on the stalk.
Kneel before Zod.
The stalk is awesome, but provides a ton of sprouts. You probably don’t need this many, but you can definitely cook this much for a large gathering. The bag you get at the grocery store is probably a third of this:
Get them off the stalk, trim down the ends (you’ll want to do that even if you get them from a bag, as the ends tend to look pretty dirty). If the leaves look crappy, peel off the top layer. Slice them in half lengthwise.
Throw them in a big pan, and pour in some water. Get about an inch of water in there. Put it on the stove on high heat and mostly cover the pan. You want the water to start boiling, and then let it steam the sprouts for about 10-15 minutes. Give the pan a good shake every few minutes. You want the steaming to really soften the sprouts; this fixes about half of what people hate about them. They’ll be tender enough that a fork will go through them without a fight when you’re done.
After you’re done steaming, pour out any excess water (just take off the lid and let it evaporate if you’re already low), and throw in about 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more or less, depending on how many sprouts you’ve got in there).
Turn the stove down to medium-high heat, and stir everything with some frequency for the next few minutes. You want the sprouts to start browning. Pay attention: once they start browning, they can progress to burning pretty quickly. Keep stirring.
Once they seem pretty evenly cooked, add brown sugar.
There is not a real measurement. Expect to use several handfuls of sugar here. Try to generously cover the sprouts, kind of like this:
More tends to be better than less. Now, pour basalmic vinegar over it. You want to have enough to have a little runoff in the pan. Less tends to be better than more.
Stir this up now…at a distance! When that vinegar turns to steam, expect your lungs to burn if you inhale it. Seriously: it hurts like hell for a few seconds. Throw in a little salt and pepper, and then, the magic ingredient: cayenne pepper.
You need VERY VERY LITTLE of this. A dash or two. It will ruin the dish if you use too much, so err on the side of caution here.
Stir everything up, let all these spices mix in, and get this off the heat right away. You’re done!
A disclaimer: you’ll get this wrong at least once. It’s hard to get the sugar/vinegar/cayenne mix right. In a perfect world, when you bite into one of these sprouts, you should get a burst of balsamic intensity that quickly mellows out to a sweetness from the sugar, and then slowly introduces a warmth from the cayenne pepper. It’s less good but also acceptable if you end up with something that’s mostly sweet from too much sugar, with a little savory from the vinegar. It you get a bad mix, you can usually save the dish by adding more sugar after the fact.
I have served this dish to many, many people, who have told me they hate Brussels sprouts while shoveling them into their mouths as fast as possible. Happy Thanksgiving!
- You can toss in some onions and/or garlic, but really, that’s true of anything. Saute it up when you throw in the butter and olive oil.
- If you’re not brave, skip the cayenne pepper, but if you do, I’ll judge you.