Why It Works
- Preparing the Brussels sprouts two ways—roasted until crisp and shaved raw—adds multiple dimensions of flavor and texture with just one ingredient.
- Preserved lemon makes for a delicious twist on a classic Caesar dressing.
Here at Serious Eats, we're practically allergic to misleading marketing fads, so when "air fryers" started to become all the rage, we avoided them. That's because "air fryers" don't fry at all: They roast, just like any oven. The difference is that they're convection ovens with particularly effective fans relative to the oven chamber size, leading to rapid and very even browning. Is it such intense heat and even browning that it's comparable to a food submerged in 350°F oil? Heck no! The only thing "air-fried" foods should be compared to are other roasted foods.
But now that I have spent some time with a few different air fryer models, I'll admit, they do roast small amounts of food very, very well, and quickly too. So I'm gonna say it: If you have the space to store yet another device in your kitchen, it's arguably worth buying one. If you do, you'll be able to whip up recipes like this Brussels sprouts side dish with great results.
It features beautifully crisped and browned Brussels sprouts with thinly shaved raw ones for a more complex flavor and range of textures. Mixed into that are crunchy toasted breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and a creamy Caesar dressing flavored with preserved lemon. The whole thing is showered with even more toasted breadcrumbs and grated cheese, for a dish that's as easy as it is delicious.
The air fryer works wonders (god, I hate having to write that!) with a vegetable like Brussels sprouts, which is packed with sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinates that are part of the plant's natural defense system. They're what give the sprouts (and other brassicas like cabbage and broccoli) a mustardy pungency, which can be pleasant unless cooked very slowly at lower heat, which breaks down the glucosinates into more nasty sulfurous-smelling molecules. High heat is key to avoiding that, since it shuts down the enzymatic reaction that creates those funky smells—something the air fryer delivers rapidly.
It's a killer cold-weather dish that goes great with a roast like pork or chicken, or, as my family knows firsthand, all by itself straight from a bowl with a spoon.
- For the Dressing:
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon
- 6 oil-packed anchovy fillets
- ¼ of one (4 ½-ounce; 130g) preserved lemon, flesh cut off and discarded and rind roughly chopped (about 1 tablespoon; see note)
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 2 medium cloves garlic (about 10g total), roughly chopped
- ½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (15g; about ¼ cup)
- ⅓ cup (80ml) canola or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the Breadcrumbs:
- ½ cup (35g) panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- For the Brussels Sprouts:
- 1 ¼ pounds (565g) Brussels sprouts, stem ends and damaged outer leaves trimmed and discarded, divided
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Kosher salt
- Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for topping
For the Dressing: In the bottom of a cup that just fits the head of an immersion blender, combine egg yolk, lemon juice, anchovies, preserved lemon, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Blend to fully mince garlic and preserved lemon. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in canola oil until a smooth emulsion forms. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.
Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
For the Toasted Breadcrumbs: Combine breadcrumbs and oil in a large skillet, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring and tossing occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Transfer toasted breadcrumbs to a rimmed baking sheet, spread into an even layer, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
For the Brussels Sprouts: Using a mandoline slicer, very thinly shave ¼ pound (115g) Brussels sprouts into a medium bowl. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, quarter the remaining 1 pound (450g) Brussels sprouts lengthwise through the stem (for large Brussels sprouts, cut into sixths). Working in batches if necessary, add to an air fryer basket in a single layer, toss lightly with olive oil, season lightly with salt, then cook at the air fryer's highest temperature setting, stopping to toss sprouts every 2 to 3 minutes until deeply browned and crisp all over, about 10 minutes. (Note: Based on our product testing, air fryers can vary significantly in performance and capacity, so whether you can do this in one batch or not, and exactly how long it takes will depend on the specific model you're using; please keep a close eye on the Brussels sprouts as they cook to ensure they brown and crisp to the desired level.)
Transfer roasted Brussels sprouts to bowl with shaved Brussel sprouts, along with ¼ cup (30g) of the breadcrumbs. Add ½ cup Caesar dressing and toss until well combined and evenly dressed; season with salt and mix in more dressing, if desired.
Scrape dressed Brussels sprouts into a serving dish, then top all over with remaining ¼ cup breadcrumbs and a generous coating of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve.
For a stronger preserved lemon flavor, feel free to double the quantity in this recipe.
Air fryer, immersion blender
Make Ahead and Storage
The Caesar dressing can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The breadcrumbs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.