Bitter, boring, bland and the bane of every 5-year-old child's existence -- all common descriptions of brussels sprouts. It's hard to disagree when you're eating sprouts that have merely been boiled and salted, the minimum you have to do to call them cooked. But when you think outside the sprout, and supplant their bitterness with sweet, salty, complex and caramelized flavors, you transform these boring brassicas into blissfully emblazoned bonbons. Roasting brussels sprouts coated in bacon fat and dredged in maple and brown sugars produces a caramelized, salty-sweet treat you'll think came from a pastry shop instead of a garden plot.
Things You'll Need
- Paring knife
- Kitchen towel
- Coarse raw brown sugar, such as demerara, muscavado or turbinado
- Coarse maple sugar
- Mixing bowls
- Shallow dish
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Kosher salt
- Hot pad
- Garnishes, such as crushed pistachios, lemon zest or diced bacon
Peel the yellow outer leaves from the brussels sprouts and slice off the brown tips with a paring knife. Blanch the sprouts for one minute in boiling water and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool.
Drain the sprouts in a colander and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together two parts coarse raw brown sugar, such as demerara, muscavado or turbinado, to one part coarse maple sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour the sugar in a shallow dish.
Pour warm, rendered bacon fat in a bowl and add the brussels sprouts to it. Pull one sprout out at a time, let it drain over the bowl, roll it in the mixed sugar and place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the sprouts, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart from each other.
Sprinkle a pinch or two of kosher salt over the brussels sprouts, just enough to play off the sweetness. Place the pan in the oven.
Roast the brussels sprouts for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a paring knife inserts in them easily. Slide the pan back and forth vigorously in the oven after about 20 minutes of roasting to turn the sprouts. Let the pan cool for a few minutes on a hot pad after you take it out of the oven.
Garnish the brussels sprouts, if desired, with an ingredient that contrasts in texture or flavor, such as crushed pistachios or cashews, grated lemon zest or diced bacon.
Tips & Warnings
- Always use high-quality, raw brown sugar when making maple and brown sugar brussels sprouts. The quality of the sugar, its scorch point and the size of its granules play an important role in quality and taste of the sprouts.
- Render your own bacon fat by dicing sliced bacon into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook the bacon in a pan over low heat until the bacon crisps, then drain the fat into a mixing bowl.
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