As a child, I never understood how Brussels sprouts got such a bad rap. I had no knowledge of the overcooked bitter foul soggy blobs of gray grossness which served as the beginning and end of most people’s acquaintance with Brussels sprouts. Trust me, they are incredible when made properly. Buttery, flavorful, and visually appealing — Brussels sprouts perfectly compliment any main course dish. Try this recipe. I dare you.
Before preparing this dish, be certain that you are starting out with quality sprouts. Brussels sprouts grow on a sturdy stalk and wrap themselves around it in a helical manner which I find quite beautiful. Some grocers sell them still on the stalk and I advise buying them in that manner, if at all possible. Should you decide to grow them in your garden, wait until after the first good frost to harvest for maximum sweetness and flavor.
Recently, a friend informed me that her grocer no longer carries Brussels sprouts because they do not sell. I fear that many American farm and produce stands may do away with so-called specialty items like Brussels spouts, broccoli rabe, Jerusalem artichokes, celery root, kohlrabi, and fennel for similar reasons. *sigh, sigh, and sigh* These marvelous vegetables are packed with nutrients and anticancer properties. Brassicas (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), in particular, contain indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells. So, for goodness sake, once you find some: take them for a test drive. Back to the recipe!
Ideal sprouts look like tiny, firm, and compact green cabbages. The outer leaves should have a waxy blueish quality which gives way to bright green layers. Do not buy or consume if they are yellowed, squishy, soft, wilted, warm (they should be chilled), or smell strongly of cabbage. I’m not kidding around. Please, please, please be careful in your selection. Once purchased or harvested, promptly prepare the sprouts or freeze them. If canning is the plan, I advise turning them into kraut. After removing the sprouts from the stalk, you have 3-5 days to use them before they turn into utter muck suitable only for compost bins or slopping hogs.
Before cooking, cut off the outer leaves from the sprouts, slice off the stem, and cut a small X about 1/8 inch into each stem-end. Bring a kettle three-quarters full of water to a rolling boil, then toss in some salt and sugar. Add sprouts to the kettle and return to a boil, allow to cook for about 5 minutes. They should be a brilliant green. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then let them sit in the colander.
Now, chop up some pecans (1/2 cup chopped pecans per every 2 lbs of Brussels sprouts) and toss them in the bottom of a hot dry frying pan over medium heat. Stir frequently so that they are evenly toasted. Add a 1/2 cup of butter or ghee and once it is bubbly toss in the sprouts, coating them thoroughly. Add salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg (freshly grated if possible), and a dash of lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve promptly.
Notice the color? The pictures don’t do them justice. They look absolutely gorgeous on a plate beside some roasted carrots or gracing your holiday buffet/sideboard. If you don’t have access to pecans, feel free to use almonds or hazelnuts and be certain that you prepare enough for good-sized portions. Expect to get four servings out of every two pounds of fresh Brussels sprouts. Bon appétit!