Brussels sprouts have a complicated, spotty history in my family. We never ate them growing up, because Ma hated them with a vehemence most people reserve for Al Qaeda. We, her children, didn't appreciate them either, because they came from the ground and didn't contain any high fructose corn syrup. (Which, if you were a child in the '80s, you know HFCS was one of the four FDA-sanctified food groups, along with Pez, Bugles, and any breakfast cereal with marshmallow animals.)
The last few years, however, both my sister and I have taken a liking to brussels sprouts--so much so that we're trying to get them on our 2008 Thanksgiving table. It'll be tough, thanks to Ma's six-decade-long vegetable vendetta, but we have a secret weapon: Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts, adapted from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks blog.
I'm used to roasting brussels sprouts, but I'd never made them on a stove top before discovering this recipe. Henceforth, it'll be the only way they touch my lips. The sprouts were thoroughly tender, evenly browned, perfectly savory, and mercilessly addictive. I ate three before they even made it to my dinner plate. There was no guilt involved either, as they're cooked with very little fat and only a sprinkling of deliciously beloved cheese.
If you serve the sprouts for Thanksgiving (or otherwise), Heidi suggests using smaller, tightly closed brussels sprouts and changing the cheeses to suit your tastes or the season: gruyere or Gouda for winter, and Parmesan for sunnier days. Whatever you decide, you'll be happy. Promise.
- 24 small brussels sprouts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 – 1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice
Wash the brussels sprouts well and dry with a paper towel. Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and toss in bowl with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5-10 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.
Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use tongs or a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. While you might be able to get away with keeping a platter of these warm in the oven for a few minutes, they are exponentially tastier if popped in your mouth immediately.