Brussels Sprouts Bring Home the Bacon

by Kelly on November 19, 2010   

Beautiful little buds clinging to the stalk

By “bring home the bacon” I mean not only are they cooked with bacon, they provide all the necessities of life — these little guys are nutritious. But let me take a moment on that bacon-larded idiom. It does mean to provide for, or earn the dough, but it is thought to have originated from the game of catching the greased pig, a popular county fair diversion in England and then in America. I guess if you snag and hold onto the bacon you can bring it home. Nice.

Brussels sprouts — from the broccoli family and yes, originating in Belgium — have both their fans and ardent foes. I’ll theorize, though, that those who hate them have not had them cooked properly. If overcooked, Brussels sprouts release a compound that to some smells sulfurous. They seem like tough, dense little cabbages, but in fact they cook rather quickly. Altogether, in under 10 minutes.

Brussels sprouts are very lovely in full stalk form. They are likely to be a little fresher that way, because you can see if the leaf bracts are wilting or not. They will last kept cool for a couple of weeks off the stalk, but they begin to get a woody flavor if kept too long.

Thanksgiving! These would be wonderful sidled up next to the bird.

Pan-seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon | serves 6

A fresh stalk will yield 50 to 60 sprouts, and I usually allow about 6 per person as a side dish.

36 to 40 Brussels sprouts
3 slices thick bacon, diced
1 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Small pinch of dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chicken broth

Remove the sprouts from the stalk. Wash and drain, pat dry.

They snap off easily, but if one gives you trouble, use a small paring knife to cut it from the stalk

If you don't need all that the stalk yields, store the rest in fridge for up to 2 weeks

Trim the root end and pull off the outermost leaves, if loose or discolored. Halve the sprouts. Set aside until needed.

When you trim the root, the outermost leaves will pull off easily

I leave the garlic in the dish, but the halves can easily be removed before serving

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, gently cook the diced bacon until it is golden and crisp but not burnt. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Set aside until needed.

Increase the heat slightly and add the butter. Add the garlic, cut side down, and cook for a minute or two to release the flavor. Then arrange the Brussels sprouts, cut side down, in the pan.

You may need to work in two batches if they don't all fit face down

Cook the sprouts for 5 minutes, or until nicely browned on the cut side. Turn.

They bounce around a little on this side

Cook the sprouts another minute or two, and then sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken broth around the outside edge of the pan, give it a shake to distribute the liquid, and cover the pan. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. The sprouts should still be a little resistant when pierced with a skewer. Add the bacon and toss over the heat to combine. Serve immediately.

This was my grandmother's beloved serving dish and is at least 100 years old -- perfect for the Thanksgiving table

You’ll change the minds of the most adamant Brussels sprouts-haters (I’ve seen it!) — a conversion that really brings home the bacon.

Kelly McCune © 2010
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan C November 27, 2010 at 7:52 am

Kelly, I made this dish for T-Day dinner and a miraculous thing happened: three guests, who professed to HATE brussels sprouts, fell in love!


Kelly November 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I’ve witnessed those conversions myself!

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