01 December 2011

the cruciferous Cinderella

Brussels Sprouts StalkBrussels sprouts seem to be the ugly stepchild of the vegetable world. Nobody knows what to do with them. Nobody, in fact, wants them. They look funny. They smell funny. And they have a volatile temper: take a wrong step, use the wrong approach, and they'll spoil everything.

Though I like every other crucifer I've eaten, from red cabbage to romanesco, for years I thought I hated Brussels sprouts. I had only ever tried them boiled. Hard-boiled one might say. Mushy and sour, with an utterly repugnant color and an even worse odor. (No vegetable deserves to be treated this way.) Asked what foods I didn't like, I would offer a very short list-- fava beans, Swiss cheese, red beet eggs-- oh, and Brussels sprouts.

Then during one of my college breaks, all this changed. My sainted mother filled a bowl with tender, half- caramelized and half-crispy emerald globes. The spirit descended. I was an immediate convert.

Apparently the secret to delicious Brussels sprouts, as Mom had discovered in my absence, was dry heat and butter.* No boiling, no added liquid at all, just a saute pan with a large pat of butter. Whaaat.

Well, 'tis the season for Brussels sprouts and so yesterday I picked up a few stalks to try cooking myself. Stalks! Did you know that this vegetable grows vertically? I thought they just popped up in rows like wee cabbages, but no, you have to lop them off a stalk.

Jared, intrigued by these novel items, held them to his head like antennae and walked about the house for a while, announcing, "I'm a moth!"
Brussels Sprouts

Here's how I prepared the sprouts. It's how my mom does it, and you can look at this page for an official recipe, one uses olive oil rather than butter and adds cheese. Either way I can now safely say that we like Brussels sprouts.

(In the future I would like to try this recipe. Also roasting, which in my opinion's a brilliant way to prepare almost anything.)


Good Brussels Sprouts

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts**
a couple tablespoons of butter
2 large garlic cloves
salt and pepper

1) Wash Brussels sprouts and halve large ones.
2) Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and Brussels sprouts and stir; shake pan to distribute sprouts evenly. Let cook 5 minutes or until crisp tender, stirring occasionally. Do not cover for more than a minute or two (you don't want them to start steaming).
3) Remove lid and raise heat to medium-high. Stir-fry for a few minutes to achieve browned, crispy edges. Serve hot.

**The powers that be (Google) say this is about twenty medium to large sprouts. However, if you're trimming them from a stalk you will have all different sizes, including micro-mini. Guesstimate. The amounts don't matter much. It's the technique.

{image credits: arnold inuyaki and loumcf}


  1. I do hope there is photographic evidence of the giant moth!

    I concur with the comment about saint Deborah, the patron saint of all Brussels sprouts and other edibles.


  2. Our camera is sadly broken, and I didn't think quick enough to snap one with my phone. :(