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Brussels Sprouts: the Tasty, Tiny Morsels on the Stalk

By Ron Mac Lean

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Ingredients:
1/2 lb. Prosciutto or bacon, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
½ cup of Balsamic vinegar
2 cups of chicken stock
1 ½ lbs. Brussels Sprouts
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Fry bacon (or Prosciutto) in a large deep skillet over medium heat until evenly browned and almost crisp. Remove bacon. Drain off all but two tablespoons of bacon fat. Add olive oil, butter, garlic and onion to skillet and cook over a medium flame until the onions go glassy. Add the Balsamic vinegar and chicken stock to the skillet and let simmer until liquid has been reduced by 1/3rd. Add Brussels Sprouts and bring to a boil over high heat. Once they have reached a full boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until Brussels Sprouts are tender: about 10 minutes. Add bacon to the skillet and stir. Serve immediately. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Creamed Brussels Sprouts with Nutmeg
Ingredients:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp. salt
Dash of white pepper
2 cups milk
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, cleaned, cut into halves and steamed for 10 minutes
½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg

Instructions:
In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, whisking briskly. Bring to a boil; stir until it begins to thicken; about two minutes. Add Brussels Sprouts and nutmeg and stir. Simmer until the Brussels Sprouts are completely cooked and tender; about five minutes.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts in garlic
Ingredients:
1 – 1 ½ lbs. of Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and cut into halves
2 – 4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
Salt and pepper to taste.
Instructions:
In a large skillet, pour in 2 T. of olive oil and add Brussels Sprouts. Keep on a low to medium flame for five minutes. Add garlic and stir. Continue to sauté Brussels Sprouts and stir occasionally. Keep at a low enough temperature that your garlic does not burn but turns golden. Add additional olive oil as needed to prevent scorching and burning. Cook low and slow for another five to ten minutes; until sprouts are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

here are two kinds of people: those who love Brussels sprouts and those who can’t stand them. If you are included in the latter, perhaps you’ve only had them overcooked or they’ve set in the store too long. My suggestion is to try them fresh off the stalk.

This vegetable looks and tastes like a miniature cabbage, leaves growing on top of leaves to form a nearly perfect ball shape. The size of each individual sprout depends on where on the stalk it is located. Those formed on the thickest part can be nearly the size of a half dollar coin but usually will be the toughest. Those at the very top can be as small as a pencil eraser. The most tender ones are those the size of a dime to a nickel.

Over forty years ago, my father-in-law who was a chef, found a farm in the country south ofUticain Upstate New York that sold these tasty little morsels-on-a-stalk at a roadside stand.  He gave us one or two stalks to try, and told me how to harvest the sprouts.  The stalks are about two feet tall when mature and may contain 30 to 40 sprouts. At that time, the farmer who raised them charged 50 cents per stalk: a real bargain even at 1960’s prices. We were OK with the taste of cabbage (a vegetable affordable to a young family’s pocketbook), so we quickly fell in love with the taste of these tender tiny cabbages that grow on “the stem of life.” The season for these luscious veggies begins after the first killing frost, usually in November and December.

So how do you harvest the Brussels sprouts?  The method my father-in-law told me was to get a good grip towards the top of the stalk, and start with the larger sprouts. Cut off each one with a sharp knife.  Because each little morsel grows at random spots, you have to turn the stalk to have a good cutting angle.  Recently I learned from someone who grows Brussels sprouts, that you can simply twist each sprout until it breaks off.  This method may be less labor intensive and certainly less dangerous than using a knife.

Once off the stalk, each one must be trimmed which involves removing the outer or damaged leaves to reveal a fresh solid tiny cabbage.  I’ve found that it is more efficient to cut and trim in two separate operations. Some people rinse and soak the sprouts in salted water to draw out any hiding bugs.

This tasty collection of tiny morsels is ready to be placed in a pot of fresh boiling water.  Check every so often with a fork to see if they are tender; then drain. Spoon them into a complimentary colored serving dish, add butter and serve. Some folks like to add a touch of salt and pepper.

If you are one who has never been crazy about Brussels sprouts, now is the time to try them hot and fresh.

If you are one who has never been crazy about Brussels sprouts, now is the time to try them hot and fresh.  If you are like me and absolutely love the tiny morsels, dig in and enjoy!  I have often wanted to cook up a whole stalk of ‘em, then sit down and relish nothing but these luscious prizes from the garden without the influence of any other food.

Ron Mac Lean has lived in Upstate New York all of his life.  He is now retired, lives in New York’s Fingerlakes Region and continues to enjoy a variety of local farm produce that is so readily available.

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