I have just finished a round of CocoaRoar for Thanksgiving, and seven hundred truffles later, I’m happily catching my breath with a pre-holiday cranberry-ginger daiquiri. When friends come to my apartment to pick up their orders, they’re greeted by the sight of large containers filled with truffles and multiple 6-pound bags of Valrhona chocolate pieces. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked how I keep from gorging on chocolate all day. But the weird thing is that while I’ve been surrounded by an obscene amount of chocolate this past week, the foods I’ve been most hungry for are cruciferous vegetables. More specifically, I’ve had wicked cravings for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon And Garlic.
I think Brussels sprouts often get a bad rap, unjustifiably so. I’ve never had an issue with Brussels sprouts, but maybe I just love miniature things, especially baby vegetables. These always look like adorable tiny cabbages to me.
Perhaps my cheerful relationship with Brussels sprouts evolved naturally because my initial introduction to them occurred when they happened to be roasted with some bacon. I am absolutely convinced that you can make anything taste better with bacon. Everyone knows that.
I can imagine that merely boiling these little green globes does not present them in their best light. Roasting them with a little olive oil at high heat shows them off to much better advantage. Tossing them with some minced garlic and a bit of chopped up bacon thrown in for good measure ensures that this story has a happy ending. The outer leaves get impossibly crispy while the centers become fork-tender. And did I mention that everything tastes better with bacon?
As someone who might willingly give up eating meat as long as bacon wasn't off-limits, I am happy to make a meal out of a large bowl of these roasted Brussels sprouts. They seem to say, “I’m small but I'm mighty. While I may look like a little bruiser, I think you’ll find that I’m actually rather sweet inside. I don’t fall apart under pressure, and in fact I truly shine when the heat gets turned up under me. And since I am also great vehicle for smoky bacon, how could you not love me?”
One Year Ago: Fiery Sweet Potatoes
Two Years Ago: Smoky Roasted Eggplant Dip
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON AND GARLIC
Adapted very slightly from a recipe in Gourmet, January 2001
I like using applewood smoked bacon for this, though Gourmet’s version of the recipe calls for pancetta. The original recipe also asks you to pour in a little water at the end of the roasting process to help scrape up the brown bits that stick to the pan. But I am lazy when it comes to dishwashing and I line the pan with foil or parchment paper to make the clean-up process easier, thereby making it unnecessary to add the water at the end. I like a modest splash of red wine vinegar over the roasted Brussels spouts, which adds a welcome acidic note to the finished dish.
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed well
2 slices thick bacon, cut into ¼-inch thick pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 450°. Position the oven rack in the top third of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet or a 9x13-inch roasting pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters. (Be sure to cut lengthwise through the root ends to keep their shape intact.) Spread them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and add the chopped bacon and minced garlic. Drizzle the olive oil over the top, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
Place the baking sheet on the top oven rack, and roast the Brussels sprouts for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through the roasting time. They should be crispy on the outside and tender inside. Toss with the red wine vinegar and serve while still warm.
Serves 4 as a side dish. (If your name is Louise and you’re in desperate need of greens, this makes only 1 or 2 servings!)