For decades, brussels sprouts battled a bad reputation, probably the result of being steamed or boiled to an army-green death.
But the ways they’re being cooked now would make any vegetable jealous: roasted with honey and harissa until crispy; sautéed with salty, spiced sausage and topped with pickled red onions; doused with cream and baked with cheese and breadcrumbs until thick and bubbling.
While they may never take mashed potatoes’ place, these versatile, nutty, sweet little buds more than deserve a place on the Thanksgiving table.
Compared with other more traditional root vegetables, they don’t take long to cook and can be made on the stove or in the oven. Nearly all the prep work (trimming stems and cutting buds, for example) can be done days ahead and even outsourced to willing volunteers. Best of all, they can play almost any role, from a lighter side, roasted and tossed with herbs, to a rich and satisfying garlicky gratin.
Mushy? That’s all in the past.
Brussels Sprouts Gratin
1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 large shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 cups coarse breadcrumbs or panko
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Gruyère (about 3 ounces)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine breadcrumbs with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Toss together brussels sprouts, shallots, garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and roast, tossing occasionally until sprouts are bright green and just tender (think al dente), 12 to 15 minutes.
Pour cream and scatter Gruyère over sprouts and toss to coat. Continue to roast until cream is reduced by about half and sprouts are beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes longer.
Scatter breadcrumbs over sprouts and return to oven until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Let sit 1 to 2 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
Garlicky Brussels Sprout Salad
1 cup walnuts
1 pound fresh brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
1 small clove garlic, finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino, plus more for shaving (about 2 ounces)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tart apple, quartered, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
1 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup parsley leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Toast walnuts in a skillet over low heat, shaking pan frequently, until evenly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer nuts to a cutting board and chop.
Remove all outer leaves from the brussels sprouts (reserve cores for roasting or pickling) and place in a large bowl with garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 cup Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Massage leaves until they are all evenly coated. Let sit about 5 minutes. (This will help them soften.)
Add walnuts, fennel, apple and pomegranate seeds (if using) and toss to coat. Add mint, parsley and olive oil and season with salt, pepper and more lemon juice, if needed. Garnish with shavings of Parmesan.
Yield: 6 servings