Sunday, October 31, 2010

Raise High the Brussels Sprout

I have only a vague memory of Brussels sprouts from my childhood. On the list of the best (Ruebens) and worst (liver and onions) recipes that made our regular rotation it didn’t really even stand out.

I remembered it as a bland side dish that didn’t come with much fanfare. Touted as “diet” food in the same way iceberg lettuce, cottage cheese, and for some reason, toast, was in the late 70s and early 80s, it was celebrated for its limited calories and not much more. Occasionally as an effort was made to cut back on calorie, the tiny cabbage heads appeared on our plates. They were served whole and left a puddle of water that had soaked in between their leaves as they bobbed around in a pot on the stove. They tasted like nothing really, or possible an inert gas.

As I grew up, my encounter with the Brussels sprout was rare. In fact I don’t think I saw them again until one November when my Cooking Light cooking group celebrated our annual Thanksgiving dinner. Held in the weeks before the holiday, it gives us a way to try out some new side dishes and desserts that may not be served at our own feasts. That night as I scooped the shredded vegetable side dish onto my plate, I had no idea what I was taking.

I suspected it was cabbage, the only other vegetable in a similar shade I had seen cut in such a way. As I took my first bite, I was delighted. It was wonderful, a tangy tart bite and of course a little bacon. As I would later find out it was the lowly Brussels sprout in the recipe, which I now know is Warm Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Red Onions. The apples, onions and sprouts were pan fried in a bath of water and vinegar.

I liked it so much I brought it to my own family banquet and it was as appreciated and loved there as well. Since then, I have passed the recipe on a number of times to family and friends who often think it is cabbage, but are surprised to find out they have just traveled to Brussels.

This year was the first I kept my CSA share through winter, making it the first that Brussels sprouts have appeared in my box. When I picked up my last delivery, I piled my box high with bags of it, trading my now lesser favorites, lettuce and radishes, for extra portions of the tiny cruciferous vegetable.

I tried a new recipe and was surprised to find out, it too was quite good. I had long thought the secret to eating the sprout was shredding it up until you weren’t sure what it was. But it turns out, you can eat it almost whole and it is just as lovely. The recipe I made, Eating Well’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon-Horseradish Cream, is a new favorite, featuring steamed sprouts cut in half. The sauce is simple, just horseradish and reduced-fat sour cream, but it is a perfect pairing for the vegetable’s slightly biting taste. It was also versatile, tasting delicious both hot and cold.

Of course the recipe also features bacon, as does the Warm Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Red Onions, which always adds that special something to a recipe. But I’m sure it’s the Brussels sprouts that are doing it this time. After all, bacon was served with liver and onions too and that did nothing for that dish.


  1. Nice write-up. I always liked brussel sprouts.

  2. Thanks, coolblogger. These are definitely two good recipes.