Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon are loaded with flavor and will turn anyone into a Brussels sprouts fan! Forget Global Warming or the War on Terrorism. If you want a real controversy, malign Brussels sprouts. I found this out one November after making a simple observation about Brussels sprouts on Facebook. The comments, twenty seven of them, were either in support of Brussels sprouts or in agreement with me on their um, taste.
I’m not terribly fond of them, but my family loves them. So since Thanksgiving seems to be one of the Brussels sprouts’ best friends, I do make (and eat them) now. I have to admit, I am a bit drawn in by their packaging.
They are now sold on the stalk, no doubt due to some clever marketer’s idea that it will make them appear more intriguing. (This post was originally published on November 3rd, 2011. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.)
When I told Spencer I was going to be roasting Brussels sprouts, and knowing my keen loathing for this vegetable, he said, “Brussels sprouts are not sexy”. This is true. The Brussels sprout definitely lacks the slender appeal of asparagus, the seductive mystery of an artichoke or the All-American wholesomeness of the tomato. And yet, as with many things in life, preparation and presentation can easily sway our perceptions.
What do Brussels sprouts taste bitter?
Brussels sprouts a cruciferous vegetable and in the same family as bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower or kale. According to Cook’s Illustrated, Brussels sprouts are “rich in flavor precursors that react with the vegetable’s enzymes to produce pungent new compounds when the sprouts are cut, cooked and even eaten.” Well, there you have it, I knew I wasn’t alone in my perception of bitterness. BUT, if they are prepared “just right”, they go from pungent and bitter to sweet and nutty! Ok, so I was willing to give roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon a chance. I mean, bacon…it makes everything better, right?
How to make roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon
Blanching or steaming the sprouts before roasting them helps reduce that bitter taste and bring out their sweetness, but that turns the preparation into a two-step process which sometimes isn’t convenient. This method combines the steaming and roasting on one pan.
Step 1: Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Try and aim for sprouts that are about 1 1/2″ in length, unless you buy a big stalk. If the Brussels sprouts are under 1″ in length, keep them whole. If they are around 1 1/2″ in length, halve them and if they are longer than 2″ in length, quarter them.
Step 2: Toss the sprouts with 1 Tablespoons water, the olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay them on a baking sheet, cut side down. Cover the baking sheet tightly to keep in the steam. Just 1 Tablespoon of water will give off enough steam to par-cook the inside of the Brussels sprouts without drying the exterior out. Cook them at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes covered.
Step 3: Remove the foil and put them back in the oven until they are brown and tender, an additional 10-12 minutes.
Step 4: While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, cook the bacon, then chop finely. Reserve a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Toast and chop the pecans.
Step 5: Finishing the Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans.
In a large serving dish, toss the roasted Brussels sprouts with the bacon, 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat, chopped pecans and 2 Tablespoons olive oil.
Taste and adjust seasonings adding more salt or pepper if needed. I only use this salt or kosher salt, never table salt.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pecans
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees.
- Toss Brussels sprouts, 3 Tablespoons olive oil, water, salt and pepper in large bowl until sprouts are well coated. Transfer sprouts to rimmed baking sheet and arrange so cut sides are facing down.
- Cover sheet tightly with foil and roast for 10 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue to cook until Brussels sprouts are well browned and tender, about 10-12 minutes.
- While sprouts are roasting, cook bacon in a 10" skillet until crisp, about 7-10 minutes.
- Remove bacon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve 1 Tablespoon bacon fat. When cool enough to handle, finely chop bacon.
- In a skillet, or in the oven, toast pecans until they are golden and fragrant. When cool, chop.
- Toss cooked Brussels sprouts with 1 Tablespoon reserved bacon fat, 2 Tablespoon olive oil, chopped bacon, and chopped pecans. Season to taste.
- If you are using loose Brussels sprouts, chose sprouts that are about 1 1/2″ long.
- Quarter sprouts longer than 2 1/2″.
- Don’t cut sprouts shorter than 1″.