Did you ever have to sit at the dinner table as a kid until you finished the vegetable incarnation of your nemesis? “There are starving children in Ethiopia and you will sit here until you finish your vegetables!!” How many parents used that threat to get their kids to clean their plates? I don’t think I was a terribly picky kid, but I do have just one haunting memory of being left at the kitchen table long after the dishes were done, lights off, back door checked and locked, and my brother tucked in bed with the dog by his side. And sitting before me was my unfinished dinner, something green staring back up at me, refusing to disappear no matter how much I pushed it around with my fork and willed it to go away.
I don’t remember what vegetable it was, but I suspect it was… gulp… brussels sprouts. I think SUE! only made them once when I was a kid, and they were boiled, bitter, soggy, grayish lumps on the plate. I think she told us that she made them because my Dad liked them. I have no doubt that he cleaned his plate. But then again he learned early on that EVERYTHING Mom makes tastes delicious. (No doubt a strong Pillar Of Truth in their 35+ year marriage.)
Thusly, brussels sprouts were crossed off the list of acceptable dinner components long ago. And then a few years ago, I saw them at the farmer’s market in their natural packaging, all lined up on a stalk cut straight from the field. I was instantly intrigued. They looked just like my first grade Christmas pageant instrument of choice – the jingle bells stick! I had to figure out how to make them delicious.
Brussels sprouts are in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and collard greens. They’re chock full of vitamin A and C, folic acid, and fiber, and are said to be excellent at warding off colon cancer. The trick is to get them fresh, pick the small ones, and eat them straight out of the oven. They’re quite delicious when simply roasted with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and they go beautifully with roasted yams, beets, squash, or potatoes.
But sometimes you have to get fancy, and this is the equivalent of a Brussels sprouts encore. Browned with sweet hazelnuts, a hint of honey and kick of citrus. These are no boiled brussels sprouts, guaranteed. If thinking about this veggie conjures up bad childhood memories for you, too, consider giving them another try in this preparation. I’m willing to bet that you’ll become a converted brussels sprouts lover, too. Enjoy!
Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnut Butter
Click here to print this recipe.
Adapted From: Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2009
Serves: 6 to 8
Time to prepare: 30 minutes
For the Butter:
½ cup hazelnuts (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon honey
For the Brussels Sprouts:
1½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1¾ pound small brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, damaged outer leaves removed (if any) and cut into quarters
½ cup chicken broth
Make the Butter:
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the hazelnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet, and roast until they are a deep golden-brown color and the skins are splitting – about 5 to 6 minutes.
Wrap the nuts in a clean kitchen towel, cool for a few minutes, then remove the skins by rubbing the nuts together in the kitchen towel while still warm. Don’t worry about completely removing the skins.
Let the nuts cool off for about 10 minutes, then finely chop ¼ cup of the nuts in a small food processor until very finely ground (but not to the point that they turn to nut butter). Coarsely chop the remaining nuts for garnish.
Mix the finely chopped nuts, butter, lemon zest, thyme, honey and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small bowl and mix with a spatula until well combined.
Cook the Brussels Sprouts:
Heat the oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the sprouts and 1½ teaspoon salt and stir to coat.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until all of the sprouts are golden brown on most sides and have lost their raw color (they should still feel firm), 15 to 18 minutes.
Add the broth and immediately cover the pan. Cook until the broth has reduced to a few tablespoons, about 2 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to high and boil off most of the remaining liquid, 1 to 2 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and add the hazelnut butter in spoonfuls. Toss well and season to taste with salt. Garnish with reserved hazelnuts.
Do ahead: Trim and quarter the brussels sprouts, and make the butter ahead of time then cook and assemble at mealtime.