Brussels sprouts anyone? Now let’s not be too quick judge here. I know growing up I never especially liked them. Those nose-wrinkling wads of cruciferous terror were always a little too mushy, a little to bitter, and their army green color was definitely sore on the eyes.
Good thing we’ve come a long way since the days of Betty Crocker. And good thing we are also more aware of when these little buggers are at their best. The colder months always grow sweeter sprouts with more compact heads.
What balances out the bitter in the Brussels? Sugar, acid, and salt. So let’s try some sprouts with a lemon confit (a simple syrup with equal parts sugar to water with some lemon zest thrown in). The sugar caramelizes when cooking and creates a beautiful balance while glazing everything a savory-sweet. Bacon is in this recipe, too, but feel free to leave it out for the vegetarians and leave out the butter in the end for vegans.
1 pound of Brussels sprouts, outer leaves peeled and bottom cores trimmed
4 strips of applewood smoked bacon, sliced ¼” across
2 Tablespoons butter
2 lemons zested
To make the simple syrup, warm the 1/4 cup of water and add the 1/4 cup of sugar, stirring until everything has dissolved. Add the zest of two lemons and cook on low for about 5 minutes.
Now that that's out of the way, let's pre-boil the Brussels sprouts. This will give a head start when we sauté later and guarantee they won’t crisp too much on the outside before finishing cooking internally. Fill a 6-quart pot with water, adding enough salt to taste like a salty soup and bring it to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts. Cook until just before they are fork tender. Remember, we’re still cooking them more later so don’t cook them all the way here. Drain and drop them into ice water in order to retain their green color (versus allowing them to continue to cook because of their residual heat, turning that god-awful army green color). As soon as they have cooled, drain and set aside.
Now, heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the bacon, allowing the fat to melt, rendering it, without moving it around too much. Once the bacon starts to crisp, remove it temporarily to a plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the Brussels sprouts and turn the heat up to medium-high and add a teaspoon of salt. Roll the sprouts around in the bacon love for about 4 minutes. Add the lemon syrup with the bacon into the pan, making sure everything gets coated. Throw the butter in at this point to finish. Once the butter has melted and the Brussels start to brown and crisp, you’re done!
You can even try some toasted pecans for an extra crunch.