Thanksgiving has come and gone, but let’s keep Brussels sprouts on our radar, shall we?
Festive food has its rightful place through the end of December, at which point I’ll divert my attention to a juice cleanse. Last year’s vegan attempt was a sorry excuse for a nutritional overhaul. It’s not that vegan diets don’t work – it just didn’t work for me. Rather than cooking up a rainbow of colors, I regressed to the land of beige and ate like a toddler, stuffing my mouth with hummus and crackers.
Let’s postpone any thoughts of January. It’s December 1, we’re in the last month of the year, my daughter’s birthday month, of which she’s well aware. The Winter Solstice is on its way; come December 22 the days will start to lengthen and we’re off to the races towards Summer.
It’s one of my favorite months. I turn on my holiday Pandora station for 31 straight days, and bask in the kitchen glory of making healthy foods unhealthy.
Take Brussels sprouts. The butt of snide jokes amongst the under-10 set because according to many, they’re a little too healthy.
I have a fix for that kids, it’s called bacon and butter. And not just any butter – Vermont Creamery carries a maple butter that was unquestionably ideated, cultured, and manufactured in Heaven. I used it to finish my barley risotto a few weeks ago, and I’m using it again here with Brussels.
On the stalk, mind you. If you can find them on the stalk, they’re likely to be fresher, and have the added benefit of reducing a prep step. Yes, you still have to pull off some of the outer leaves, but when you pull a sprout right off the stalk, you don’t have to trim the browning ends. Loose sprouts are fine too, just make sure that they’re firm and bright green.
If you don’t have maple butter on hand, don’t panic. You can easily finish the dish with a pat of butter and some pure maple syrup.
What you must, must, must use is good quality bacon. Thick cut – the kind that holds its shape when you cook it and doesn’t melt down into something the size of a Crest Whitestrip. That is not good bacon. Oscar Mayer may have a cute Wienermobile, but he does not make good bacon.
I cook my sprouts simply, making sure that they don’t overcook. To do this, I add some white wine, little by little, alternating with more bacon grease to build up flavor and color.
If I don’t add liquid, I find that by the time the interior of the Brussels sprouts are cooked to my liking, the outer leaves are overdone and starting to taste like cabbage. I often serve my kids food that’s been cooked with a little alcohol like gravy or beef stew – most of the alcohol cooks out anyway. But if you want to keep the alcohol out of your dish, just replace the wine with water.
It may come as a surprise that Brussels Sprouts make good leftovers. The key is to fry them until they reclaim their former crispness. They won’t achieve the same texture exactly, but mixed in with a few other leftovers – stuffing, maybe some ham, or leftover turkey – they make for a fabulous hash.
So enjoy your Brussels, enjoy your bacon, your stuffing, your egg nog. It’s December, let’s live up the last few weeks of 2014. That juice cleanse….it can wait.
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
- 8 oz bacon
- 4 cups of Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed of any brown stems, and wilted leaves removed
- ½ cup of white wine
- 2 Tablespoons of maple butter (Vermont Creamery brand, or combination of 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, and then snip your bacon with kitchen shears directly into the pan.
- Stir the bacon for a few minutes, allowing it to crisp and become golden brown.
- While the bacon is cooking, slice your Brussels sprouts in half.
- When the bacon has finished cooking, remove the pieces to a paper towel-lined bowl, and pour the bacon fat into a bowl, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan.
- Add your Brussels sprouts, and cook, stirring every so often to ensure even browning.
- After the sprouts have soaked up most of the bacon grease, and are starting to brown, add a few tablespoons of white wine. Cook until the wine has been absorbed, and keep cooking.
- If the Brussels sprouts are looking dry and need a little more oil to help them brown evenly, you can add a little more of your reserved bacon grease.
- Continue to cook – adding a little bit of wine and/or a little bit of bacon grease until the sprouts have browned evenly. Taste one, and if it’s still a tad crunchy at the center, cook for a little bit longer, but the sprouts should be served a little al dente.
- When you’re ready to serve, add the maple butter (or butter and maple syrup), toss until the sprouts are glossy, season with salt and pepper to taste, and then serve.