Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. Opponents of the vegetable swear it tastes like metal. Or worse, like feet. When cooked improperly, I admit, I do find them to have a lingering bitterness. (Actually, studies show that a certain gene may be the reason some people hate Brussels sprouts.) But when coated with the right vinaigrette, flash fried, or sautéed, Brussels sprouts have a complex richness, an earthy savoriness that fills your mouth. There's nothing like it. I guess except for maybe cabbage, because they're technically in the same family.
But cabbage leaves are obviously bigger, and have a lighter flavor. And whenever I think about that veggie, the first thing that comes to mind is Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory's Charlie Bucket wailing to his family, "I'm sick of cabbage water! It's not enough!"
Anyway, I digress. On with the recipe. So in culinary school a few months ago, one of my chef instructors whipped up for us a plate of Brussels sprouts. We oohed and ahhed, gobbled up second helpings and licked our fingers clean (because when you're a rookie like us cooking for hours at a time, you eventually ditch the plastic forks and dig in with your hands, despite the constant reprimanding not to do so). Our tastebuds still swimming in our Brussels sprout high, we anxiously asked for the recipe and our jaws dropped when Chef revealed the secret: Butter. Salt. Pepper. Yes. Pair this with any kind of rich meat dish, like braised short ribs, and you'll have yourself a sophisticated, French-inspired dinner.
Serves: 4 Prep time: About 30 minutes Cook time: About 10 minutes
Ingredients: 2 pounds Brussels sprouts 4 tablespoons butter 1 to 2 teaspoons salt 1/2 to 1 teaspoon white pepper
1. Deleaf the sprouts: Gently peel each leaf off a given sprout until you reach the small core. If desired, cut the core in half and add to the pile of Brussels sprouts leaves. This may take awhile, so be patient! Rinse and dry.
2. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the leaves, stirring to coat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until Brussels sprouts are slightly wilted, but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as desired.
My Notes: Why deleaf the Brussels sprouts? Because it's pretty. And because the process of washing them becomes easier. And because they'll cook more quickly and evenly. In a pinch, you can quarter them instead, but expect to give them about 5 minutes more cooking time.