I think we all have a brussels sprouts horror story from when we were kids. I know I do. I was in first grade. My parents went out-of-town for the weekend, so I was left in the care of my best friend/neighbor’s family. My midwestern parents never ate brussels sprouts, but my best friend’s Californian family did so regularly. I recall her parents placing a plate of steamed, bitter, flavorless brussels sprouts in front of me and requiring me to eat them despite my protests. Chris has a similar story of trying the bitter vegetable and vowing never to taste them again. Over a decade later, a good friend of mine turned me on to them again as an adult. Chris, however, continued to hold on to his vendetta against brussels sprouts into adulthood.
I often listen to NPR in my car, and one of my favorite shows is the Splendid Table. If you haven’t yet listened to Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about the many delights of food, you’re missing out. She absolutely dazzles me with her knowledge and passion. Anyway, back to brussels sprouts, I remember listening to this fabulous brussels sprouts with autumn fruits recipe in 2007. Lynne, as usual, made the dish sound absolutely divine! Since that day, I couldn’t see brussels sprouts without thinking of the recipe. For years, I’d mention the forbidden vegetable to Chris, but he’d always quickly turn me down. This weekend, I had a stroke of genius (sadly it took me 4 years to think of this)! I made a deal with a Chris. If he let me cook brussels sprouts for dinner, I’d include bacon in the recipe. A former vegetarian, I’m generally not a fan of bacon and other fatty meats, but Chris practically lived off of bacon and cheese before we partook in cohabitation. Longing for his beloved, long-forgotten bacon, Chris quickly agreed.
I searched for the recipe and found it on the website here: Oven-Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Autumn Fruits. Okay, okay, so it’s winter not autumn, but it’s all the same in California, right? We washed the Anjou pear, honeycrisp apple, and brussels sprouts, and started chopping.
Much to our pleasure, this recipe calls for everything to be chopped and then tossed in one big bowl. Easy! We once again used kosher salt instead of sea salt, and we substituted cayenne pepper for the red pepper flakes. I loved adding fresh herbs into the mix. Hopefully one day soon we’ll have our own homegrown fresh herbs for cooking.
We then spread the mixture out into a single layer on a cookie sheet, and baked it at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes in 10-minute increments, mixing everything a bit at each 10 minute mark to prevent burning.
Et Voila! We had a delicious, fruity, bacon-spiked brussels sprouts dish. The steamed version from my childhood pales in comparison.
We made the brussels sprouts the highlight of our dinner, pairing it with an artisan pasta in a walnut cream sauce. I begged Chris for some good olive oil for the sprouts and sauce, so we saved some money by using Moscato as both cook’s juice and and an ingredient in the pasta sauce.
After making and tasting the sauce, we were a bit worried about the texture and flavor. It’s an emulsification and we forgot to roast the walnuts before processing them. Fears aside, we sat down to a colorful plate full of vitamins and good ingredients. We both loved the sauce and pasta, but the true test of tonight came down to Chris’ response to the brussels sprouts. I thought that his clean plate said it all, but he stated, “I guess I like brussels sprout DISHES, but I still hate brussels sprouts.” Ah well, maybe I didn’t turn him in to a lover, but it’ll sure be easier to convince him to buy the vegetable the next time I have a craving. I, however, plan to reinstate the ban on bacon. Who knows when I’ll need it again for a worthwhile negotiation (shhh don’t tell Chris).