Anchovies. Pineapple on pizza. Brussels sprouts. All hated by many, defended aggressively by few. But it’s surprising that Brussels sprouts remain a battleground, since they’re objectively amazing. If you cook them correctly.
But when they’re bad, they’re bad.
Because they’re spit-out awful when they’re overcooked. That’s probably how you remember them, steamed or fried into a mushy, stinky mess. Incredibly acidic too. Like downing a bottle of vinegar. But chances are your parents made you finish them all off anyway, since they’ve got all the makings of a super food sans the street cred.
For the health-conscious in the house, sprouts are full of cholesterol-lowering agents, iron, potassium and many more good things, including glucosinolates, which allegedly fight off cancer. But that last one’s also the reason BS’s let out such a foul odour when you screw them up.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. When made right, sprouts bring a wonderful nutty flavour to meals – and when tender or lightly caramelised, they’re pure textural bliss, as the soft outside layers hide a wonderful crunch.
Would Kate McKinnon lie to you?
Okay, so first step: steer away from the steamed Brussels Sprouts of yr childhood. It’s just a little boring, tbh.
But if you insist, you should keep a watchful eye on them as they steam. Stop when they’re getting tender (about 8 minutes), and serve them with a smack of butter and lots of salt and pepper. Chilli flakes are fun, too.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s spruce up your sprouts. You can roast, sautée and fry: BSs are pretty versatile, so it’s worth trying them all out. Here are three faves.
GATEWAY DRUG: BUTTERY ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Sleek ‘N’ simple. (Photo: iwashyoudry.com)
Popping BSs into an oven transforms them from blerg to beaut. The key is to roast them until lightly caramelised so they melt in your mouth. A good metric is about 4 BSs per person, since you’re cutting them in half.
Top trick? Before you pop them in the oven, cook them for a few minutes with butter and olive oil in a frying pan till they start to brown. That way, the butter will soak through and prevent the oven from roasting them dry. Take them out of oven (set to 180c) after 15-20 when they’re looking a little charred. Ideally, the inner part of the sprout should still be tender.
Sprinkle lemon zest, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper on top when it’s ready. Alternatively, luxe things up with pan-fried shallots and a fish sauce dressing mixed with chilli paste and garlic. These bigger flavours work wonders against the buttery BSs.
BONUS: Over at GOOP, while Gwyneth Paltrow’s whole concept of “oven-fried Brussels Sprouts” makes little sense (just say roasted!), they come with glowing reviews from my boss, so here we are.
NEXT LEVEL: SAUTEED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON
Smoky. (Photo: cookingandbeer.com)
Sauté, you stay. Giving these green guys a quick flick of on the pan lends a damn-near sensual smokiness. If you want to get serious here, you’ll want to pair it with a fatty meat (though if you’re vego, olive oil is fine). Bacon is the classic, but chorizo works too.
Start off with your meat of choice, keeping the heat high to render the fat. When it’s cooked, take the meat out with tongs and leave the juices in there. Now, chuck in your BSs – if you have room, put them all cut side down so they get a nice caramelised coat. Don’t move them until there’s a good sear going, then give them a stir and make them lightly brown all over.
Add in some onion, chilli and garlic, and serve with lemon. Mint can’t hurt.
BONUS: Mix it up with roasted chestnuts and a spot of maple syrup. The sweet, chocolatey notes are a dream.
PURE INDULGENCE: DEEP-FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
This is it. (Photo: HowSweetsEat.com)
For when you want to pretend you’re eating healthy, deep-fried BSs can’t be beat. Because they’re tightly packed with layers, these veggies shine when deep-fried for 5-8 minutes. The result? An onslaught of crunch similar to a bloomin’ onion with the added the bonus of no terrible breath.
There’s two options here: cover them with shaved pecorino, or glam it up with inspiration from Sydney restaurant Porteno. Their BSs have been a crowd favourite for years thanks to a tangy dressing. Mix together two tablespoons of hot English mustard with two parts olive oil and one part vincotto, a sweet balsamic vinegar.
Serve it with a bed of green lentils to undercut the intensity of a deep-fried snack.
Or you know, just add lots of cheese. (Photo: TheFoodFeed.com)
Look at you, smashing your greens. Your mum would be so proud.
Oh, and if you’re still not feeling it, try baking Brussels sprouts in a creamy, cheesy gratin. And if you hate that too, then you’re the most stubborn person in the world.