Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roasted Brussels sprouts

An older episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives rekindled my interest in Brussels sprouts. Chef Louis Silva of Naglee Park Garage, San Jose, Calif., tosses the sprouts in olive oil, lemon slices, bay leaves, sage leaves, fresh garlic cloves, salt and pepper. He then wraps them in parchment paper and aluminum foil and roasts the sprouts in a 350-degree oven until they pass the smell test.

"When I smell them," explained Louis, "I know they're done."

The roasted Brussels sprouts come out the oven, cool for a minute or two and head straight for a skillet. A healthy pat of butter, ladle of hot chicken stock and handful of cooked crumbled bacon join the sprouts. The vegetable quickly cooks as the stock reduces.

The adventure of trying a new vegetable on the residents intrigued me. I purchased five pounds at the market and prepared them for dinner one evening last week. My goal was to duplicate the Chef Louis' process.

Yet, I had reservations. I've always had this love-hate affair with the little cabbages. While I enjoy the bright cabbage flavor when cooked right, bitter compounds that leach out during cooking ruin the experience. And as I entered this new experience, I didn't know how the residents would react to Brussels sprouts.

The residents surprised me (as they have in the past). Enthusiasm for the vegetable surfaced early in the afternoon. "We're having Brussels sprouts," a resident exclaimed as I trimmed the sprouts. "We're have Brussels sprouts!"

My initial purchase of five pounds proved inadequate. Almost all 26 residents took a serving of roasted Brussels sprouts that evening. It didn't help that they accompanied tri-tip roast, mashed potatoes and brown gravy, one of the most popular meals at work.

The kitchen workers missed out on the dish with its bright lemon aroma. Only one sprout remained when it came time to serve the kitchen workers. I was only able to taste one sprout myself earlier before the meal was served.

I will add to the menu often this fall and winter. And next time, I may need to purchase six pounds for the residents.


This recipe easily multiplies to feed larger groups. I've found that 5 pounds is the minimum quantity needed for the 26 residents at work. As an alternate to the skillet step, I open the foil, stir in the remaining ingredients (bacon, stock and butter) and turn the oven heat up to 400 degrees. Once the sprouts caramelize a bit, I remove the pan from the oven and serve.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 cloves garlic
3 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
3 slices fresh lemon
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts, garlic cloves, sage leaves, bay leaves, lemon slices, salt and pepper with olive oil until well coated. Lay out a 20-inch piece of parchment paper over aluminum foil on a sheet pan and pour the Brussels sprout mixture into the middle. Fold the foil over itself.

Place in a 350-degree F oven. Cook for about 30 minutes or until they smell done. A larger batch will require 10 to 15 additional minutes. Remove from oven, open foil wrapper and cool slightly.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add Brussels sprout mixture, chicken stock and bacon crumbles. Cook over medium-high heat until stock reduces and sprouts are tender. Serves 4 to 6 portions.

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