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The Food Lab Thanksgiving Special: My Favorite Brussels Sprouts Recipes

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, unless otherwise noted]

It's cliché to talk about how much people hate brussels sprouts ("the much maligned brassica!" or "those baby cabbages that everyone hates!"), and these days it's not particularly accurate, considering that they (and their cousin kale) have been the hot vegetable of the moment for the last several years. Our brussels sprouts recipes continue to be among our most popular, and they're all over menus everywhere.

I blame it all on the fact that people have finally started learning how to cook 'em properly. They don't need to be the sulfurous, mushy, repulsive cabbages that you might have grown up eating. Charred, sweet, and nutty, when cooked properly, brussels sprouts are the star of the Thanksgiving spread. Here are my three favorite ways to get 'em there.

Method 1: Roast 'em Hot

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The goal here—and with most brussels sprouts recipes, in fact—is to cook them fast, and cook them hard so they char and caramelize, their leaves turning crispy, brown, and nutty, and their natural sugars breaking down into sweeter simple sugars. Not only does this add sweetness and bring out their characteristic nuttiness, it also suppresses their less desirable sulfurous compounds.

This means you want to use the highest heat possible when cooking your sprouts. This can be accomplished easily in a skillet, but if you want to free up some stove-top space this Thanksgiving, you can just as easily do it in a pan in the oven. The key is to preheat the pan in the oven before you add the sprouts to it so that they begin to sizzle as soon as they land.

Check out the full post and recipe here for more details on the method!

Method 2: Deep Fry 'Em

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Folks are understandably but unnecessarily afraid of deep frying at home. Understandably because deep frying involves a potful of really, really hot oil. Unnecessarily because given the proper precautions, danger can be minimized, and with the correct equipment (like a wok) it doesn't really make a mess. These are good things to keep in mind when considering deep-frying your brussels sprouts.

Another good thing to consider: deep fried brussels sprouts are awesome. Normally I'd strongly suggest or heartily endorse a recipe. In this case, however, the results are incredible enough that not only do I think you should try it, I actually insist that you do. I take full responsibility if you aren't completely blown away by how tasty the results are. When you fry them, brussels sprouts become everything you love about brussels sprouts with none of their downside. The nutty aroma. The mildly sweet flavor. The just-tender-but-still-crisp interior. Couple that with the crisply frizzled edges and tiny pockets perfect for coating in a sweet-tart sauce, and you've got the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving flavor-bomb.

Check out the full technique and recipes here!

Method 3: Cook 'em With Pork

[Photograph: Jennifer Segal]

Hot and fast is a theme with sprouts, and the same goes for this method. The only difference here is that rather than relying on olive oil or butter, we're pairing sprouts with pork fat. Like tomatoes and mozzarella, hamburgers and ketchup, or chocolate and bare human flesh, this is one of the great culinary combinations.

When picking the appropriate pork product for your sprouts, anything fatty and cured will do, really. It's just a matter of personal taste. Slab bacon cut into large chunks that you can call lardon if you're fancy or French or both. Crispy chunks of ham. Dry-cured Spanish chorizo, which may well be my favorite. Like I said, any sort of salty cured pork product.

The key is to render out that pork first, then use that fat to cook your sprouts, whether it's in a ripping hot oven, in a skillet, or on the grill (check out the links for recipes!).

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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