The Best Brussels Sprouts

Jackpot!

Jackpot!

I know, I know. Many years of negative talk about Brussels sprouts have conditioned people to detest everything about these, without ever having had really good sprouts. I myself have had many awful preparations of the little cabbages, and so I can understand the problem so many people have with them. The haters don’t know what they are missing.

Fresh Brussels sprouts are not extremely common to find here in Japan. Every so often they will pop up at the local stores, and with a similar frequency at the commissary. Though it is always completely random and with no consideration as to whether they are in season or not. I was super excited to find a big pack of them at the commissary earlier this week, and even relayed my excitement to a fellow shopper. His response of “You can have all of them” was neither surprising nor upsetting since I knew how good they would be on my plate. And I even thought about taking more, but I can only eat so many pounds of them before they would have gone bad.

A few years ago we were living in Newport, RI, as previously mentioned in the French Toast post. While there we became fans of a “Mexican” restaurant, in the Bowen’s Wharf touristy area, called Diego’s. I use the quotes around Mexican, because it isn’t very authentic, but it is a really fantastic restaurant, with great tasting food and an incredible cocktail menu. On our first or second visit, we happened to notice one of their sides coming by on someone else’s plate and promptly asked the server what it was. We ended up both getting these amazing Sprouts, and then ordered or substituted them again nearly every subsequent visit. While I am not saying my recipe is exactly theirs, my sprouts still have the same overall feel and a good bit of the flavor.

Part of why I think most dislike Sprouts is the the difficulty in getting the doneness right on a whole sprout. I have tried cooking them whole in a dozen different ways, and you invariably have the outside either charred or mushy, and the insides raw. Or even worse, the whole thing is mushy and you end up with a big mouthful of green goo. This recipe by cutting them into fine strips almost like a slaw. To prepare the sprouts for cooking, first I cut them in half, and then I cut a small V on each half to remove the stalk. There is nothing wrong with including the stalk, I just prefer the texture of the leaves alone.

Stem easily removed.

Stem easily removed.

I then cut them in a chiffonade from top to bottom, or vice versa. This is one of those situations, like snapping the end off of green beans or hulling a flat of strawberries where it is best to just plan to be there for a while chopping. At Diego’s the very small kitchen is adjacent to some of the tables, only separated by a piece of glass, and I once watched one of the cooks spend my entire meal chopping Sprouts. Luckily, they are very fast to cook so can get to the table shortly after they go in the pan.

Cut to ribbons.

Cut to ribbons.

Into the pan with some bacon grease from my home cured bacon, and the taste really came through. It can be just as easily made with olive oil, but pork and greens go together like, well, pork and greens. The crushed red pepper adds some spice, and the cider vinegar adds some acid to counter the bacon grease. As an option you could add some minced onion and/or red bell pepper to cook down for a few minutes prior to adding the sprouts, though I only occasionally add these things.

This was a larger batch than the recipe below makes, but it keeps and reheats well.

This was a larger batch than the recipe below makes, but it keeps and reheats well.

As far as pans go, I used a big (huge actually) Le Creuset dutch ovento prepare this batch, due to the sheer quantity I had to cook, but a wok, or a large frying pan also work like a charm.

Brussels Sprouts Ribbons

  • 1 lb Brussels Sprouts, destemmed and shredded
  • 1-2 T. Bacon Grease or Olive Oil
  • 1 t. Crushed Red Pepper
  • Heavy Pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 c. Apple Cider Vinegar

Heat up fat in a large pan on med-high heat, add shredded sprouts and toss to coat with the fat.

Once they start to wilt a little, add the red pepper and vinegar. If you want your sprouts a little softer, cover the pan to allow the vinegar to steam them for a few minutes, though I like mine crisper so I skip this step.

They will cook down a bit, but a little crispness is ideal in the finished product.

They will cook down a bit, but a little crispness is ideal in the finished product.

Add the salt to taste as the sprouts reach your desired doneness, stir and serve.

Served with a steak and baked potato as sides to the sprouts.

Served with a steak and baked potato as sides to the sprouts.

As an aside, I just got a new camera lens and am still figuring it out. Look for much better food porn in the coming weeks as I get better with it and its very narrow depth of field.

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