Thursday, October 21, 2010


Brussel sprouts have undergone the kind of transformation that most of us can only dream of. Somewhere in the last five years or so, those little crucifers gained cool-kid status. I remember when the mere mention of brussel sprouts resulted in pulled faces. “I don’t like them,” people would say, demonstratively shuttering. Brussel sprouts were such a disliked vegetable that it was a joke. Literally. There is an entire Leave It To Beaver episode in which Beaver won’t eat his brussel sprouts, and his parents spend the following thirty minutes fighting over how to get the little wanker to eat them (Yes, I used to watch a lot of Nick at Night— but back when Nick at Night was actually old shows, not just shows that make me feel old, like the Fresh Prince). How did brussel sprouts go from being the sitcom worthy duds of the vegetable patch to ruling the co-op?

I think a lot of it has to do with bacon. It’s not particularly mind-blowing to say that bacon really revs up a dish. But bacon and brussel sprouts seem made for each other, thanks to the way the smoky fattiness of the pork plays against the crunch and bright flavor of the sprouts. Bacon also carries a bit of the bad-ass. Brussel sprouts can now proudly look down at the more reserved vegetables on the menu, and say, “I’m served with bacon, what about you? Oh? You’re sprinkled with rosemary? How cute.”

Another reason that people now boast of their sprout eating with pride (yes, I’ve heard two women actually arguing over who loves brussel sprouts more. I should start wearing headphones on the subway) is that we’ve actually learned how to cook the darn things. For a long time, this was not the case. In fact we seem to have maintained certain culinary traditions from the Mother Country: baked beans, toast, potato chips, and overcooked vegetables. Anyone born pre-Panisse will remember that it was de rigeur to cook the life out of veggies, which is always a shame, but particularly dangerous for cruciferous vegetables which will start to emit a sulfurous smell. Of course no child wants to eat a vegetable that smells like low tide. Beaver was a rascal but he wasn’t stupid; I bet old June was turning those sprouts into a smelly mush.

But in the end, like all parents, June did have a point, or at least Beaver’s best interests at heart. Perhaps in between vacuuming the rug and mixing Ward his martini, she had checked out one of the one hundred studies on brussel sprouts which can be found in PubMed, the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C. These studies prove that the brussel sprout is a cancer fighting extraordinaire, particularly for cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, lung, ovaries and prostate. They’re also packed with antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E.

So while the first recipe that comes up when you type “brussel sprout” into Epicurious is still called Brussels Sprouts for People Who Think They Hate Brussels Sprouts at least there are a whopping seventy three recipes listed, ranging from sauteed brussel sprouts with lemon and pistachios to Panettone Panzanella with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts (say that ten times fast).

It also helps when David Chang, currently coolest of the cool kids, makes, shockingly, brussel sprouts, a sell-out item at Momufuku Saam Bar. Of the sprouts, Chang said, “Basically, you can't fuck them up.” Yup. ’Nough said.

Soy Sauce and Sriracha Glazed Brussel Sprouts
Adapted from Mr. Daniel "I make my own jerky" Deboer

Five years ago, my friends started a culinary tradition which has become near and dear to our hearts: Turducken. Turducken has become our alternate-thanksgiving, a day when we come together to celebrate our little voluntary family, and, of course, the fact that we live in a country where it’s permissible to stuff a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey and wrap it in bacon. Last year, my friend Dan not only co-headed the de-boning and stuffing of the birds, but had time to make a side-dish as well. He cooked these brussel sprouts and I fell in love. They are spicy and salty and crunchy. They have a bit of pork fat goodness and a dose of lime tang. These sprouts just scream for a cold beer, so cook some up, call over some friends, and enjoy the sweet (and spicy) life.

serves 3 as a side dish
3 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
About 20 Brussel Sprouts, halved and cleaned
*note: I found these teeny, tiny sprouts at the farmers market, no bigger than a mini Cadbury egg, so I used 40 and kept them whole.
2 Limes
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1-2 tsp Sriracha, depending on how spicy you want them
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and let it cook until it’s crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon. Set aside on paper towels.

Throw the sprouts into the pan. Deglaze the pan by squeezing in the juice of the two limes. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Sauté the sprouts for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and sriracha to the pan.

Sauté until the sprouts start to brown and the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Remember, you want the brussel sprouts to remain crunchy, and the sauce to reduce to a sweet, spicy glaze.

1 comment:

  1. Sitting here waiting for late lunchtime, read this, and am now craving these brussel sprouts. Can't wait to try this recipe this weekend!