The first time I bought Brussels sprouts on the stalk I felt a bit closer to Mother Nature—like I had been to the garden rather than the grocery store. The simple stalk reminded me of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree with green leafy ornaments. It was cumbersome trying to fit it into my grocery cart, like what happens when you buy carrots or beets with the tops still attached. I felt like people were staring at me, wondering what I had in mind: a decorative centerpiece or a side dish for a banquet.
Once I got home, I found the stalk took up an entire shelf in my refrigerator. Despite the intrusion, I bonded with my sprouts and no wonder. I had to remove them everytime I wanted to get something from the back of the fridge. A few days later, I cut the mini cabbages from their “tree,” halved, oiled and seasoned them, and popped them into the oven. Thirty minutes later, I was rewarded with a tray of crazy tasty vegetables.
A Versatile Vegetable
Brussels sprouts can be roasted, sauteed, fried, shaved, made into a gratin or slaw or added to pizza or pasta. One of my favorite versions is Shredded Brussels Sprouts, a skillet recipe with bacon, apple, dried cranberries, and nuts.
Most often I roast them, sticking with a simple version that I adapted from Ina Garten. (See video). My son, Russ, and his wife, Debra, like to separate some of the outer leaves before roasting, giving them the look of chips. Finished off with a drizzle of syrupy balsamic vinegar and a bit of Parmesan, both chips and chunks becomes a splendid side dish or nibble.
Brussels Sprout Chips and Chunks
- 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
- 4-oz. pancetta or bacon, 1/4-inch-diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place Brussels sprouts on sheet pan. Include any loose leaves, which will get crispy when roasted. Add the pancetta (or bacon), olive oil, about 1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt (less of regular salt), and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands, and spread in single layer on sheet pan.
Roast the sprouts for 20-30 minutes, or until tender and brown and the meat is cooked. Toss once during roasting. Remove from oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and toss again. Taste for seasonings, sprinkle with cheese, and serve hot.
Note: For a nice syrupy topping, double the amount of balsamic vinegar and cook in saucepan until it’s reduced by half. Pour lightly over Brussels sprouts.