The Little Cabbage that Could

February 14th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup

It pains us to even admit this, but it took us a long time to come around to Brussels sprouts. They didn’t crack the dinner rotation until we were well into our 30s, with two kids, a mortgage, a dog, and a creeping difficulty reading the fine print on aspirin bottles. In other words, until we were full-fledged adults. But in our defense: When we were kids, way back in the 80s, Brussels sprouts, like liverwurst and canned sardines and that weird gelatinous pate you’d see at our parents’ dinner parties – was a grown-up food, a punch line food, the kind of thing you associated only with thinly veiled threats. “OK, guys, if you don’t eat your Brussels sprouts…”

From an early age, then, it was drilled into our heads: Brussels sprouts were something to be choked down. They were what had to be endured if you wanted your bowl of Rocky Road. One thing you learn as a parent, though, is that you are not necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. With our kids, we could start over. We could change the narrative. We could, if we went about it the right way, get them to like Brussels sprouts. So a few years ago, we set out to try. We spied a billy-club-size stalk of fresh-looking sprouts at the farmer’s market, brought it home, and began experimenting. And by experimenting, we mean spinning. “Baby lettuces,” we began calling them.Hey kids, aren’t they cute? We shredded and sautéed them (“Look kids, it’s like confetti!”), then tossed with fettuccini and Parmesan; we blasted them at high heat in the oven, and dressed them up with mint, cilantro, fish sauce, and Rice Krispies. (“Can you say Mo-mo-fu-ku, kids?”) But it was, of course, bacon that took us to the Promised Land. We fried some Brussels in bacon fat, drizzled them with cider vinegar (they love a little sweetness), then watched as our daughters popped “baby lettuce” after “baby lettuce” into their hungry little mouths. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to like what accompanied (and elevated) our boring old chicken that night. All they knew was that they wanted seconds of this magical vegetable that – bonus! – came with bacon bits on top. And we were only too happy to oblige. – Jenny & Andy

This is our “Providers” column from the March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit — on newsstands today. Please head over to their site for the brussels sprouts recipe. Photo by Romulo Yanes for BonApp.

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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Christina // Feb 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Nope, sorry, not even bacon can salvage the sprout in our house even for the adults.

  • 2 Alyssa // Feb 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I actually love brussels sprouts! Call me weird but I have always been a veggies kind of person. Can’t wait to try this recipe :)

  • 3 jen // Feb 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    adore brussels – shredded, roasted, sauteed. can’t get enough.

  • 4 Meagan // Feb 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    The transformation of the brussels sprout in my life has been the most dramatic of any edible item! I remember vividly staring down at the single steamed little cabbage on my plate, which I would eventually choke down in order to leave the table. Nowadays we roast them at high heat with lots of olive oil and salt and simply cannot get enough. They are divine! Your recipe looks great but features too many elements for my purist, picky eaters. As it is now, they’ll eat the “chips” – crispy outer leaves – and that’s it. But I’ll take it.

  • 5 Maria // Feb 15, 2012 at 8:50 am

    As far as I remember, I never ate a brussel sprout in my childhood. Probably one of my parents couldn’t stand them, so we never had them. However, we tried them as a family a few years ago when my daughter was intrigued by the stalk with the little sprouts on it. (I think buying them on the stalk adds to the mystique, by the way). We love them roasted with a little salt. Also with cheese sauce, which is cheating as far as nutrition goes, but hey, you get the vitamins under that fat anyway, right? We’ll have to try it with bacon bits, that sounds yummy as well.

    I’m an advocate of the “just keep trying” school when it comes to weird foods. We have a big age range (5 to 14) in our family, and what the little girls won’t eat now, the older kids are more willing to try, so things just keep showing up on the table and eventually (sometimes!) new favorites are found.

    We also have an adult friend who was (according to him) quite a picky eater as a child. He set out in his 30s to re-taste all those foods he didn’t used to like and discovered many that he now happily devours. So, parents, never give up hope! :)

  • 6 Janna // Feb 15, 2012 at 9:34 am

    When I was a kid, one of our rules of dinner was that we had to eat at least a bite or two of everything that was served, and brussels sprouts honestly evoked my gag reflex. I found a recipe in the Washington Post a few years ago for jullienned brussels sprouts with bacon (1 pound of bacon) and carrots. Since then they are featured at every Thanksgiving, and brussels sprouts served any way conjure the flavor of bacon. That dish got me over the hump, and I make them all the time now, most of the time just with some garlicky brown butter.

  • 7 Rachel // Feb 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    LOVE that recipe from Momofuko. Totally revolutionized Brussels sprouts for us.

  • 8 Meister @ The Nervous Cook // Feb 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    At least you came ’round to them! I can’t imagine my life without B-sprouts anymore, though for a while I inherited my mother’s prejudice. (Her aversion is justified, I think, because my maternal grandmother didn’t do anything but boil these little guys to death.)

    Long live the sprouts, and long live the sprouts eater.

  • 9 Emily // Feb 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Made this last night – DH said they were the best sprouts he’s had. Thanks!

  • 10 Maria in Missoula, Montana // Feb 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    My husband and I were delighted to read this! We can relate on so many levels (mortgage, two children, dog, etc.) and we’re excited to try a fancier version of our lower-brow brussels sprouts solution which includes red onion, bacon, and lemon juice. (We love shallots, but, hey, red onions are easier on the grocery budget.) The golden raisin inclusion is brilliant and just might seal the deal for our toddler.

    Perhaps Jim Gaffigan put it best when he described bacon as the magic ingredient for transforming food, “Bippity, boppity, BACON!”

    At first I thought a Bon Appetit subscription would just make our mouths water and wouldn’t actually provide any reasonable recipes for two working parents, a toddler, and an infant… now that we’ve attempted several recipes and found your blog, I’m patting myself on the back for subscribing!!

  • 11 Wylie // Feb 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    “I am a newsletter subscriber. Do I win the Baked Better Bread Prize?”

  • 12 Nancychan // Feb 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Joy is having your 20 year old serve you his own roasted brussels sprouts with the take-out pizza at his off-campus apartment! And
    “I am a newsletter subscriber. Do I win the Baked Better Bread Prize?”

  • 13 Rebecca // Apr 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I adore brussel sprouts (even without bacon) but this recipe was no bueno. They were still hard as a rock after simmering in the broth and the flavors were weird. :( wished i had simply roasted the sprouts instead. sigh.

  • 14 Cyndie // Oct 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I just discovered your blog and I have to say I am hooked, have been reading for the past 24 hours almost non stop! LOL!

    I guess I was the weird kid on the block, but I love brussels sprouts. Just steamed with butter and a little salt is how I have eaten them most often. But I also like them with bacon and toasted walnuts yummm!

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