Battling Brussels Sprouts to the Bitter End

Give a ten-year-old a plate of Brussels sprouts and you'll get the kiddie equivalent of the bitter beer face. Hell, give most adults a plate of the healthful green veggie and you'll get the same reaction: Icky. Those look gross. Do I have to eat it?

Whine, whine, whine. Having successfully stumbled my way through beet salad, cornbread and potato leek soup, a Scottsdale Old Town Farmers' Market find inspired this Virgin Cook to try her hand at making Brussels sprouts edible. My ingenious idea? Boil 'em in beer. Turns out, there are tons of online recipes for German style sprouts cooked in stout beer or ale. It seemed like a killer idea, until a chef friend pointed out that it could increase the bitterness of the sprouts.

CDKitchen showed me the error of my ways with a sweet Bacon-Maple Brussels Sprouts recipe guaranteed to cover up the green veggie taste enough to sway a picky kid.  


3 containers Brussels sprouts
3 slices bacon
1 medium onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Get The Virgin's DeStructions after the jump...

[Cook's Note: This recipe serves 12. Since getting my husband or friends to eat Brussels sprouts is on par with the likelihood of getting Phoenix politicians to welcome illegal immigrants with open arms, I halved and halved and halved the ingredients until I had one manageable serving size.] 

1. First up, pre-slice the onion and cut bacon into half-inch squares. Having no idea what the hell "crosswise" means when it comes to vegetables, I cut the onion in half vertically and then cut one half into horizontal slices. At least now, thanks to ELO's tipI'm treating my 99-cent store knives with more care on bamboo cutting boards. 

2. Trim any yellow leaves or rough stems from the Brussels sprouts. Mine were handpicked from the basket of organic veggies at McClendon's farmers' market booth, so luckily I didn't have to do much. Tip: Whole Foods stores offer Brussels sprouts that are still on the stalk, which will ensure nice fresh sprouts and a giant phallic symbol for you to play with.  

3. Heat an inch of water to boiling in a covered nonstick skillet over high heat. Dump the sprouts in the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer for about five minutes, or until sprouts are slightly tender. They should be a bright green color; if they start to get dark, you've gone too far and need to start the whole process again. Sigh.  

4. Drain Brussels sprouts in a colander, then drop them into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process so your sprouts don't get mushy. Drain again and set the sprouts aside.


5. Add bacon, onion, salt, pepper, and half of the maple syrup to your skillet (the same one is fine) and brown over medium-high heat 7-8 minutes. Stir frequently; maple syrup loves to stick and burn. Luckily, the Virgin Cook escaped unscathed -- though I can't say the same for my pan.

6. CDKitchen says to "cut Brussels sprouts lengthwise into thin slices." After my first sprout disintegrated into little pieces, I elected the safer route of cutting each sprout in half. The recipe says to add the sprouts to the bacon mixture and cook 6-7 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. What liquid?

7. After the non-existent liquid is magically absorbed, stir in the remaining maple syrup and heat for one minute.

Despite its rating as 3 out of 5 for difficulty (5 being the hardest), this is the easiest recipe I've tackled so far. The sprouts lost much of their bitterness, leaving only a trace that contrasted nicely with the salty, crisp bacon and sweet maple glaze. My husband still wouldn't touch it, but I found this dish to be quick and satisfying. 

Maybe next time I'll add walnuts. Or beer.  

The finished product was sweet and satisfying.
The finished product was sweet and satisfying.

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