Friday, July 6, 2012

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have a poor reputation. Mostly, I think it’s because people have had them poorly prepared.  For instance, if you overcook Brussels sprouts, they’ll begin to release an unpalatable sulfurous smell. So don’t overcook them. Also, many common preparations for Brussels sprouts call for boiling them. That’s a recipe for disaster.

But cooked just right, Brussels sprouts can be quite tasty – sweet, salty, and nutty.

This recipe, if it can even be called a recipe, requires just a few ingredients and a skillet. The result? You get crispy Brussels sprouts that are a rich golden-brown on the outside and tender on the inside. Dusted with a light sprinkling of cheese and you have a little bit of heaven in a pan.

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

First, a note about Brussels sprouts. Use Brussels sprouts that are small and tightly closed. Smaller sprouts cook more quickly on the inside. Larger ones brown before they are done on the inside. Smaller ones also tend to taste better, at least to me.

Second, a note about cheese. Strongly flavored Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano work well here. You can also use a heartier cheese like a gruyere or Gouda. 

Wash the Brussels sprouts well. Trim the ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. You'll find that the tough outer leaves will generally just fall right off. 

Cut in half from stem to top. Gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact. Or do it the lazy way (which I usually do) and toss in a glug of olive oil into the bowl. Toss to coat. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Be sure not to overheat the skillet, or the Brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the Brussels sprouts in the pan, in one layer, flat side down. 

Sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt. 

Cover and cook for roughly 5 minutes. 

The bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. 

You can cut into one to tell 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 a spatula to toss the sprouts once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. Reserve just a little of the cheese to finish the dish on the serving plate. 

Serve immediately. Dust with remaining grated cheese. 


24 small Brussels sprouts (enough to cover a pan in a single layer when cut in half)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a bit more for rubbing

fine grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice

(Serves 4)

Adapted from a great cooking blog, 101 Cookbooks, which emphasizes the use of whole and natural foods. Highly recommended!

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