Everyone in my family knows how I feel about Brussels Sprouts.
In a nutshell, they’re yucky.
My mom would serve them every once in a while when I was a kid. I remember the feeling of dread that I felt when I realized what the vegetable du jour would be.
Sometimes I’d try to eat them, peeling off a leaf at a time and swallowing each leaf whole with large gulps of water.
Other times, I’d just cut them into as many pieces as I possibly could and then smear them around my plate and hiding them in other food scraps.
No one was fooled. My family took great delight in teasing me about it. My older brother would grab the serving bowl, help himself to a few Brussels sprouts, then loudly ask in a sing-song voice, “Oh Jolie, wouldn’t you like some?”
And that’s pretty much the last time I’ve come into contact with the smelly little things.
Until now. I’ve gotten to the point where I regularly cook and eat many of the veggies that I used to hate as a kid, even the green bell peppers that took me an extra long time to warm up to, so I recently decided I should give Brussels sprouts another chance. I’m almost 30, after all. Couldn’t it be that this lingering revulsion is all in my head?
So I found this recipe for maple-glazed Brussels sprouts and decided to give it a shot.
I decided to have them as a side with some boneless pork chops, sauteed in a frying pan after getting a thorough rubdown with smoky sweet seasoning. This is irrelevant to my story about Brussels sprouts, but I wanted to share this picture that I took because I like it.
First things first, I wanted to blanch the Brussels sprouts. I’ve done this with other veggies – it’s basically boiling for just a few minutes, then shocking them with an ice water bath. It’s a way to cook them without them losing color and without making them mushy. It’s wonderful with broccoli.
But I digress. Okay, here are my Brussels sprouts in the boiling water.
Followed by an ice bath!
The recipe says that the Brussels sprouts should be blanched, trimmed, and halved. I took that to mean that I was supposed to do those three things in that order. So I did. Here they are after. In retrospect, I could have trimmed a lot more off, but oh well. This was my first time.
Next step: sauté some sliced onions and red peppers. Or just onions if you don’t have bell peppers.
After about 5 minutes, I added the Brussels sprouts and sautéed them, too.
Meanwhile, I whipped up a glaze with soy sauce, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
Finally, I poured the glaze into the pan with everything else and let it thicken up.
Served on a plate, this is what I had:
I was really disappointed. I tasted strong bitter flavor, masked somewhat inefficiently with sweet. The texture was too firm, as if they weren’t cooked enough, though I followed the directions exactly, and they just weren’t good! The onions also seemed out of place.
To be fair, taste is subjective. Hubby didn’t actually mind them that much, and he ate everything on his plate. I didn’t. I could have – this was certainly better than plain, steamed Brussels sprouts, and I could have sucked it up to be polite if someone else had made it, but I just was unenthused. I ended up throwing out the leftovers, plus the ones on my plate that I didn’t eat.
I turned to facebook. After talking to some of my much wiser friends on there, I realized that I’d made some key mistakes. First, I should have taken the time to trim and peel the Brussels sprouts before blanching. It would have removed a lot of the bitterness, which is primarily what I found unpleasant.
Okay, that was really the extent of what I learned. But it was really important. One friend said that when she boiled whole Brussels sprouts, she scores an x into them to help them cook evenly, and if I’d read the original recipe page more thoroughly, I would have realized that they suggested that, as well. Or I could have halved them, and it would also have helped.
All that aside, my friends pretty much all agreed that roasted Brussels sprouts were the way to go and strongly encouraged me to try it.
So I did.
I did it hesitantly, telling myself that if I disliked this, I would never again eat another Brussels sprout and no one could make me. I also did it while drinking a large glass of merlot. I felt as though I needed a little encouragement. Don’t judge.
But I really was intrigued enough by my friends reports that I had to at least try roasting before giving up. A good friend said she makes them all the time and that she and her husband call them candy because they’re so good. I couldn’t comprehend this, but I was so, so curious.
This time I trimmed, peeled, and halved them first.
They were a lot lighter in color after I removed the dark outer leaves.
This was my discard pile!
I dropped one of the leaves. Puppy stole it and ran away. I considered stopping her, but then giggled and let her discover the bitterness as her own little punishment. Then I had more wine.
Over the trimmed and peeled sprouts, I drizzled olive oil.
And then added plenty of salt
I stirred it all up to make sure that they were evenly coated, then turned them out onto a greased cookie sheet.
After some time in a 400 degree oven, this is what they looked like.
Haha, I had no idea until now that I somehow ended up with a picture of me. I have no idea what happened here, and it definitely wasn’t a deliberate attempt to be artsy and photograph myself, but I find it funny so I’ll share it.
So, here they are. Roasted, crispy, salty.
Turns out, they really were so much better! The intense bitterness of before was gone. The unpleasant firmness was also gone, replaced by a soft sprout encased in a delicate, crunchy, tasty shell.
They were very, very salty. I think this was my fault, as I had reduced the number of sprouts in the recipe without adjusting salt or pepper. But it was okay.
Brace yourself for this next statement, for it is profound:
I ate the leftovers.
I did! I ate leftover Brussels sprouts. I did it somewhat gleefully and even considered calling my mom to inform her that I was eating my Brussels sprouts, but in the end, I didn’t. I just smiled with self-satisfaction and told the dogs that they should be proud of me. They didn’t seem impressed.
Granted, these aren’t my favorite. They were pretty good, but they weren’t the best thing ever. But they were good enough for me to go back to the store, purchase MORE BRUSSELS SPROUTS, and make it again.
I’ll pause to let that sink in.
I’m thankful for friends who pointed me in the right direction!