This, my friends, is what happens to Brussels sprouts when you roast them in the oven for a half-hour with a little olive oil, thyme, kosher salt and pepper, as I did last night for our dinner.
I've written — no, rhapsodized — about Brussels sprouts before. I'm going to go ahead and do it again because that is how pro–Brussels sprouts I am.
This lowly cruciferous vegetable has gotten a bad rap over the years. If you've only ever eaten frozen ones out of the bag that are then boiled into mush, then that reputation, in my opinion, is rightly earned. That is not the way to eat Brussels sprouts.
This is the right way: roasted until brown and crisp.
Years ago, I bought the cookbook "Real Life Entertaining" by Jennifer Rubell. It's a great cookbook for lots of reasons, but the recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts inspired me to try them again. I too had only a negative association with them from my childhood. We rarely ate them when I was a kid, but when we did, they were boiled. Blech.
First of all, buy fresh ones. Wash them and pat them dry with a paper towel. (This is a very important step. Make sure they are dry.) Slice a little sliver of the ends off and then slice each one in half vertically. Discard the loose, wilted or brownish-looking exterior leaves. Put them on a baking sheet in one layer (don't overcrowd). Sprinkle kosher salt and grind fresh black pepper over them. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme, if you have it. Toss them a little with your hands so that each sprout is evenly coated with oil, salt and pepper. Pop them into a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes, until they get brown.
When Brussels sprouts are roasted, something magical happens to them. Their outsides get caramelized in the high heat and start to crisp up. This is why you need dry sprouts; otherwise, they'll steam in the oven instead of roast. Let them get brown — really brown. You're going to want to take them out at the first hint of their taking the turn from green to golden — don't. Don't burn them, but let them walk that line of too dark.
Their outsides get delightfully crisp and their insides turn creamy. They take on an almost nutty flavor, and that stinky sprout smell vanishes.
I implore you to try them this way. You will be amazed at how good they are.
And then, after you're singing the praises of a food that you've been so wrong about all of your life, try another great, oft-overlooked fall veggie, like a parsnip. I am almost as infatuated with parsnips as I am with Brussels sprouts. It makes me sad that every time I buy them in the grocery store, the cashier has to ask me what they are.
Then again, I guess that means there's more for me to cook.