I first tried Brussels sprouts when I was in my mid-teens, at a sad buffet restaurant. I remember it remarkably well. There they were, sitting in a silver half pan with a shallow pool of lukewarm, murky water. Steeping under an overzealous heat lamp, blanched to a phlegm-like green color.
I tried them for the sake of trying them. They were never made in our home growing up, and they’re the food I’d always heard was awful, but I never experienced their awfulness firsthand.
Society wasn’t lying. Awful. They were essentially teeny, over-boiled cabbages, with a texture that skeeved me out about as much as squid does. Squishy and sad. Smelly and vomit-inducing.
Ten years later, I’ve changed my mind.
You see, the boy has these tendencies to fall in love with a particular food. He’ll love it deeply and dearly for a few months, then move on for a bit and oftentimes circle back to it. In recent history, broccoli was all the rage: steamed with lemon, roasted in the oven, tossed on the stove top with coconut oil and soy sauce… We’d buy one of the toddler-sized bags from Costco and he’d have a competition with himself to see if he could get through the whole thing before it slowly turned smelly and slightly brown in our refrigerator. I believe he managed to get through the monster bag once. It’s huge.
I’m not sure what inspired him to rendezvous with Brussels sprouts, but he did, and he is now deeply smitten with them. But they aren’t the Brussels sprouts of old that I knew. These are succulent… Cooked to a crisp in the grease of bacon that will later grace the sprouts. They’re crisp, slightly blackened, bursting with the salty bite of pork and the sweet tang of caramelized onion. This is the only way to eat Brussels sprouts.
In our heads, we justify the use of bacon as a balance to the surely negative calories in the sprouts… There’s no truth to that, but it is a comfort we encourage you to embrace.
We discovered the key to getting this dish just the way we like is to use a cast iron skillet and ample time. With a heavy, seasoned skillet over medium heat, the sprouts slowly surrender their beige, blah, boring flavor and embrace the savory seasoning of the skillet, bacon grease, and onion.
Make this as a hearty side dish for the protein of your choice, or dive head-first in love with it like my other half and eat it as a main course for lunch. Either way, Brussels sprouts no longer suck.
Bacon Brussels Sprouts
- 1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts
- 5 strips of bacon
- 1 large white onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- To prepare the sprouts, cut off the base and cut the sprout in half, or in quarters if they're very large. Discard any dirty or wilted outer leaves.
- In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until done, and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Keep the grease in the skillet.
- With the grease in the skillet over medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened and translucent, stirring frequently.
- Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring every few minutes, for about 20 minutes, or until the sprouts are softened, slightly browned, and a little blackened in some spots.
- Chop the bacon and add to the mixture and combine well. Serve warm.