The Process: Cleaning and Roasting Brussels Sprouts

I smile to myself every time I make these or when someone asks for the recipe. Why? My Mom hates these “baby cabbages”, and the faces she makes when anyone even MENTIONS them are the best. We always have a good time listening to her stories about who all has tried to convince her brussels sprouts aren’t the most horrible things on the planet. Our Grandma (her Mom) introduced us to them at an early age, and we took to them like candy. Fast forward a couple decades later, and my Mom still wants nothing to do with them. LOVES cabbage! Hates Brussels Sprouts.

This year was the first time my sisters requested I make them for Thanksgiving, and since it’s a process a few of my friends have asked about, I thought it’d be neat to share each step with photos. Now mind you, there’s no lack of resources out there like this one, or this one and the process is mostly the same. There are even recipes that include dried fruits, bacon, caramelized onions… la la la. The fundamentals are simple, and to me you should season to taste the way YOU prefer. I think it’s the process that makes the difference, and if you know what to look for, you can get those chewy, browned edges and great flavor that we tend to look for when eating them roasted. I used to include cranberries, but lately I personally like to just season the hell out of them as opposed to introducing other main ingredients. To each their own, but they’re fabulous all by themselves, amirite?

So fresh and so clean…

Before getting started, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400°. Now, wash these guys and remove the nasty outside leaves (if necessary). A good rinse and soak with your preferred method of veggie washing will do the trick. I like to leave them soaking in a large bowl and use it for “trash and grab”. This is my typical setup. If the cutting board is clean, I’ll use that instead, but a folded paper towel does a nice job of absorbing the extra water while cutting before moving to my second bowl. I wouldn’t recommend the paper towel directly on your counter unless it’s safe for cutting.

I like to cut them in half into bite-sized pieces. Nobody wants that awkward cheek-full of sprout that’s a pain in the ass to chew. I first trim off the bottom stem (which helps to remove the outer leaves.) Some leaves are perfectly intact and clean, but others like these I think are gross and have to go. Cutting the stem first helps to remove the first one or two leaves on the cluster. It’s a tedious process, but you’re already down half a glass of wine at this point, right? You’ll be fine.

The average sized sprouts get one cut; larger sprouts get cut into quarters length-wise.

Once they’re all cut, I dry them out as much as possible. If there’s any extra water during the next step, you risk steaming them to mush instead of sautéing them. I wipe out the “trash” bowl and line with a paper towel on the bottom, holding the corners to create a sort of hammock out of the package to roll them around dry. You can also pat them down if you prefer.

Time to Season These Bad Boys

Remove your paper towel and roll them around in a drizzle of olive oil. For seasoning, I tend to always use balsamic vinegar, a sweet something to offset the tang (like maple syrup or brown sugar), and salt and pepper. When I’m feeling fancy, I add a few things like siracha and garlic. Again, it’ll depend on what I have on hand, but these are the usual suspects:

  • Worcester Sauce
  • Siracha
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
  • Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic (minced/powder… whatever I have on-hand)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

All of these items are to taste, but I find the heavier-handed I am with the bitter and sweet, the more caramelized the results. For a pound of sprouts, I probably use something like two – three tablespoons of the top half of the list, and the bottom half of the list (starting with the onion powder) to taste.

From here, I grab a large pan that I can use on the stovetop, AND later transfer to the oven. A cast iron or stainless steel one will work. Once I’ve rolled the sprouts around in olive oil and seasoned them, I transfer them to the pan and turn the eye on med-high heat. Hot enough to start the browning process and also cook out any extra water.

While these are cooking in the pan, try to resist the urge to meddle. Leave them be. They’ve done nothing to deserve your spoon poking. Let them cook.

Into the Oven They Go

Once the sprouts start to turn a bright green and some are browning on the sides (after about 5 min or so), it’s time to go into the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

This is the good part. Start taking a peek after 10 minutes or so and look for the browning edges… These are getting close, but they’re not quite ready.

Another ten minutes gets me closer to what I like to see.

Give this a try at home! If you’re cool with the prep time, this is a great process to guarantee those browned edges. Remember to season on the heavier side (regular with the salt), and you should be good to go!

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