Blame your mom or your school cafeteria cooks if you grew up hating Brussels sprouts. That's because, as chef Sara Moulton told me in my latest Last Chance Foods conversation, they probably cooked them in such a way that enhanced their bitter compounds and "stinky diaper" smell.
In other words, they overcooked them.
That "stinky diaper" smell, by the way, is from sulforaphane, a compound found in other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
While you can avoid overcooking Brussels sprouts during your first pass at them, it can be harder to do so when you're reheating them for lunch the next day. A thread I found on the blog Serious Eats recommends eating leftovers at room temperature, rather than reheating them in the company lunchroom and getting the evil eye from your colleagues.
Fun fact, as we head into Lent: the cruciferae (also brassicaceae) family of vegetables, which Brussels sprouts are part of, gets its name from the cross pattern formed by the four flower petals.
I think it's easy to overcook Brussels sprouts. They are tough little buggers, right up there with cabbage, and it takes a while in the oven before their leaves soften to the point where you can pierce them with a fork.
Shredding them cuts that cooking time enormously. What can take 40 minutes in an oven takes just 5 to 8 minutes in a skillet over a burner.
I made some shredded Brussels sprouts this weekend, starting with two pieces of nitrate-free bacon from Brooklyn Cure. I threw in some raisins and toasted pecans for sweetness. Have at 'em.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Raisins and Pecans
- about 15-20 Brussels sprouts
- 2 Tbl olive oil
- 2 slices bacon, sliced into small squares
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Using the slicing disk of your food processor, shred the Brussels sprouts. You'll get about 3 cups of shredded sprouts. Set aside.
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, sauté the bacon pieces until lightly brown and crisp. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat. Add the minced shallots and sauté until fragrant and soft, about 1 minute. Add the raisins and sauté until they plump up, about a minute. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Take off the heat, and add the toasted, chopped pecans. Serve it up!