I’m convinced that Brussels sprouts-haters were force-fed overcooked Brussels as children.
I was lucky in that both my parents were great cooks with high culinary standards and our Brussels were always perfect; ‘al dente’, slightly sweet and nutty-tasting. Tossed in butter with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg or little nuggets of French chestnuts, they’ve always been my favorite winter vegetable. They’re at their very best once the cold weather sets in; choose the smallest ones with tightly packed leaves.
Nowadays it seems they’ve been rediscovered via the trend of roasting every vegetable known to man. Not that I have anything against roasting vegetables; roasting certainly concentrates the flavor and who doesn’t like those little caramelized, charred bits?
Although lightly steamed Brussels sprouts tossed in butter with chestnuts will always be my first choice, this recipe for roasted Brussels is very good indeed.
I wanted something simple with minimal ingredients (no molasses, maple syrup, garlic, onion, dried cranberries, apples, etc). Brussels sprouts have a great affinity with bacon and the walnuts add a pleasing crunch. You could substitute pine-nuts if you prefer but watch they don’t burn and only add them towards the end. A dash of really good balsamic vinegar finishes them off nicely – all the sweetness you’ll need.
I recommend using organic, hickory smoked, nitrate-free bacon (for the Brits, the bacon used here is ‘streaky’ – all American bacon comes like that).
1 lb 6 oz (600g) Brussels sprouts
2 oz (55g) hickory smoked bacon, cut into ¾ inch pieces
2 oz (55g) walnut pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar to finish
Preheat the oven to 375F (190°C). Remove any loose or damaged outer leaves from the sprouts and trim the root end – cut each sprout in half lengthways.
Cook the bacon and walnuts in a wide oven-proof sauté pan (no oil needed) over a medium heat, until the bacon just begins to crisp and the walnuts are toasted (about 4-5 minutes). Transfer the bacon and walnuts to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the Brussels sprouts to the bacon fat in the pan, toss them to coat and add a good grind of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Stick the pan in the oven and roast for about 25-30 minutes, tossing them at least once. They should be starting to turn golden brown in patches. Return the bacon and walnuts to the pan – give everything a good stir and continue to roast for another 10-15 minutes, until the sprouts are golden brown and the bacon is crispy.
Transfer to a warmed serving bowl; drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.