All three of us sisters have been surprised to find we are all big fans of roasted Brussels sprouts. Surprised because, well, those guys don’t have the best reputation and we never really ate them growing up (probably because the main option was frozen, which meant they had to be boiled, and I don’t know if they are salvageable after that).
My conversion came a few years ago at the farmers market in Notting Hill in London. My good friend Liz and I would go every Saturday morning and I think it was the highlight of both of our weeks. Due to the UK’s mild climate the market ran all year round. (The Massachusetts farmers markets are sadly contrasted as only running from May to October!). There were all sorts of wonderful things on sale–traditional poacher cheese (similar to cheddar), apples, game, free range chicken and beef, and all sorts of interesting things to try (stinging nettles and elderflowers anyone?). Several stands were selling Brussels sprouts on the stalk–I had never seen them before (I don’t know how I thought they grew, but I can’t say I ever thought about it either) but it must have been the sheer novelty of these guys that made me decide to try it. As you can see, they look pretty strange!
I actually didn’t even roast them the first time, but rather braised them (as suggested by Ina Garten, though greatly modified–I used the soaking water from dried mushrooms rather than stock and skipped the raisins) and surprisingly, I loved them! Since then I found a great recipe in Gourmet where you saute chopped up Brussels sprouts with butter and pine nuts and then toss with pasta and Parmesan, a great mid-week meal. When we converged on New York City for Marie’s wedding, she took us to a local place with great roasted Brussels sprouts–as she told us she buys them for take out and “pops them like candy”–yes, that may sound like a strange thing to say about Brussels sprouts, but they are that good!
I had some Brussels sprouts in the fridge that really needed to be eaten soon–they were still in good shape but I was afraid they would be past their prime any day. I was being REALLY lazy (and trying to get them in the oven before little E got mad–I had been doing other things int he kitchen so I knew I was running on borrowed time). So I washed the Brussels sprouts, drizzled some olive oil on them (I don’t think I make anything without olive oil or butter these days), sprinkled on some nice sea salt and freshly grated pepper, and then pulled out the pre-sliced pancetta from the fridge. Because I was being too lazy to even pull out the cutting board, I just took the kitchen shears and cut the slices up. Here’s the dressed up sprouts waiting for the oven to heat up to 400F.
So in they went for 35-40 minutes. While they turned out pretty well, I think my laziness came with a price–generally you are supposed to cut off the dried up ends of the buds, or cut an x in them. I think this is to let the heat in so the sprout can cook. So you can guess what happened: they were a little raw at the base. Not the end of the world, though you don’t get to eat the whole thing! I think the addition of pancetta was a good touch, however–sort of playing on the idea that pork and cabbage are a classic pairing.
As I mentioned one of my favorite things to do with brussels sprouts (of the three things I know how to do) is mix them with pasta. My husband was not so into the idea of eating straight-up roasted sprouts, so he chopped them up and added them to pasta with a generous portion of parmesan (I mean generous–he loves that stuff!). And we both went after the pancetta that had stuck to the baking dish, can’t let that go to waste!