Layers and layers and layers of flavor finally convinced me that Brussels sprouts are fit for human consumption. Here's the recipe that did it.
True confession: It takes a lot to get me to even try Brussels sprouts. That's because I only knew them from childhood as overcooked, soggy, stinky, shrunken cabbages.
So when I invited Matt Broussard of Seattle's Palace Kitchen to make a Thanksgiving side dish in the Allrecipes kitchen, and he suggested Brussels sprouts...let's just say I managed my expectations. But Matt's recipe made a believer out of this Brussels sprout hater.
Here's how the impossible happened.
To Market, To Market
We met up on a soggy Pacific Northwest morning, and walked the few blocks to Seattle's famous Pike Place Market to shop for ingredients. After fueling up on some much-needed coffee, we scored fresh Brussels sprouts, Turkish figs, and a Pink Lady apple at one of his favorite produce stands. I started to like where this was going.
Now We're Cooking
Back in the Allrecipes kitchen, I had bacon, apple cider vinegar, and butter waiting. And then he found a random red bell pepper in the fridge and decided on the fly to add it to the recipe. Good cooking's about improvisation, right?
You want to talk about being organized? It took mere minutes for him to wash and prep the produce, slice bacon, boil water, and start cooking. (You'll find the complete recipe when you scroll down.)
Pro Tip: Matt got the water heating and the bacon cooking before he started in on the rest of the prep. Smart time-management! In fact, he worked so quickly, I didn't get a shot of him blanching and shocking the Brussels sprouts.
Matt cooked the sliced bacon to render the fat for caramelizing the blanched sprouts. Next, the apples and peppers joined the party in the hot pan. And then he poured in the apple cider vinegar. Sorry, but I don't have words for the amazing aroma when the vinegar went to work on all the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan. Lastly, he threw in the butter to enrich the tangy pan sauce.
Have Torch, Will Travel
Well of course he brought his own kitchen torch. Don't we all? While the sprouts were cooking, Matt "brûléed" the cut figs by sprinkling them with sugar and taking the torch to them. No torch? No worries. I'll tell you how to do it under the broiler later.
The Final Act
This is where it all came together. Matt had held aside and shredded a few raw sprouts earlier, and now he used them to top the caramelized sprout + apple + red pepper + bacon + cider vinegar mixture, giving the dish fresh bright color and crunch. The sugar-crusted figs went on top of that, and a drizzle of olive oil finished it off. Layers and layers and layers of win.
How did it taste? FANTASTIC! Savory and sweet and crunchy and fresh and tangy all at once. No lie, I'm adding this to my Thanksgiving menu.
How long did it take? Start to finish, just over 30 minutes.
Pro Tip: To do this effortlessly for Thanksgiving, you could prep and refrigerate ingredients ahead of time — cook bacon, blanch Brussels sprouts, slice apples and peppers, and roast figs. Just do the final pan cooking before serving.
Brussels and Pig Meet Fig
Recipe by aCookNamedMatt
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Makes 4 Servings
1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and wilted leaves removed
8 fresh figs, washed, stemmed, and quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ¼” pieces
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons butter
salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Heat the broiler.
- Set aside 4 whole raw Brussels sprouts and shred finely. Cut the rest of the sprouts in half from top to bottom. Quickly boil the cut Brussels sprouts for 45 seconds to blanch. Drain and plunge Brussels sprouts into ice water to halt cooking. Drain and dry well with paper towels.
- Place figs cut-side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and broil for 1 or 2 minutes, or until sugar melts and gets bubbly and dark. Or you can use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugared figs.
- Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium low heat to render the fat, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove bacon and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat from the pan. Turn heat to medium high and place Brussels sprouts, cut-side down in the hot bacon fat. Cook without stirring until the cut surface is browned. Add apple, bell pepper, and reserved bacon to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add vinegar to deglaze the hot pan. Add butter and stir to mellow out the vinegar and emulsify into a sauce. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the hot Brussels sprouts mixture on a serving platter or bowl, and top with shredded raw sprouts and caramelized figs. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Tools of the Trade
Before we go, I thought you'd like to take a peek at Matt's essential gear, including an awesome carbon steel chef's knife. And that torch, of course.
All photos by Vanessa Greaves