Brussels Sprouts have a bad rap. This verdant and sweet vegetable is known far and wide as being smelly, mushy, and slimy, when really the only thing wrong with it is that some people just don’t know how to cook it correctly. Children seem naturally disinclined to like this unpopular vegetable; but then again, so do adults. Once, when visiting Scotland, an innkeeper jokingly told me he liked to start boiling his Brussels sprouts three days before Christmas so they would be ready for the Yuletide feast. He then twisted up his face in a mock illustration of disgust for the poor unloved sprout. Now I realize he was kidding, but obviously this lovely man who made a wonderful breakfast at his inn in Oban had bought into some universal idea that the only way to cook sprouts was to boil the life out of them, and that they were therefore ghastly. Well this horrible rumor needs to end now.
Contrary to popular belief, Brussels sprouts are best when cooked al dente. Sautéed until slightly crisp, they have a lush taste that is both sweet and savory on the plate. If you sat in a hot bath you'd get all pruney, right? Well overcooking Brussels sprouts does the same thing, while also bringing out a sulfuric smell. But all this can be easily avoided if you keep your eye on them and DON'T OVERCOOK.
Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous family, which includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. As I mentioned last year in my Scary Vegetables post, these foods are super vegetables. Full of antioxidants and vitamins, and thought to have cancer-preventing and fighting agents, Brussels sprouts and its cousins are ridiculously healthy for you.
But if you haven't cooked this unloved veggie before (of if you overcooked it) here are a few tips for the novice cook: