From Brussels, With Love

There is a musical instrument called, literally, jingle bells.  It’s a short, thick wooden baton, upon which are fastened bells, each around the size of a kumquat.   This time of year, it’s one of the most overworked instruments.

The name though is kind of weird.  “Jingle” bells—bells jingle, that’s their sound.  That’s like having a toot horn, a pound drum, or a strum guitar.

But nobody asked me, so…

I bring up this onomatopoeia-nstrument, not because of the season, or even the music it makes, but its appearance. 

As you may have guessed from the title, this week’s food is Brussel’s sprouts.  Many people have only seen them as loose little cabbages in a bag or the produce bin.  But, they are sometimes sold on the stalk, which keeps them fresher longer.

On the stalk, Brussels sprouts look exactly like jingle bells, only Brussels sprout-colored.

I love them.  I love them so much, I still love them when they’re overcooked and “aromatic”.  The aroma, mushy texture, and extra bitterness that overcooking imparts is the main reason these poor, maligned veggies are so disliked by so many people.

If you’re not a fan, Gentle Reader, this week I’d like to give you a few reasons to try them one more time.

When you get them home from the store, that’s a good time to prep them.  Then when you want to cook them, almost all of your work is done. 

First, though, how does one pick out good sprouts?

Their color should range from sage green to white.  They should be tight, and neither wilted nor slimy.  The cut end should not have any dark dots.  The leaves should be tight, and they should feel solid in the hand.

So, run out to the store, and pick out a couple pounds of beautiful sprouts. 

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Brussels Sprouts Prep Procedure

Start by rinsing off each sprout, then cutting off the bottom, and peeling any leaves that are no longer attached.  If you plan on cooking them whole, You’re ready.  But I always cut them in half vertically, so the cut side can get some nice browning.

Then get a very heavily salted pot of water on to boil.  Also, prepare a large bowl of salted ice water.  We’re going to blanch them (quickly boil) and shock (instantly stop the cooking, cool them, and set the color).

When the water boils, put in the sprouts and cook until the color brightens, and you can just start to smell a vegetal aroma (3-5 minutes).  Remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice water until they are cool through, then drain well.

Either go to the next step of cooking, or store in a zip-top bag in fridge for 3 days or freeze for a month. 

There is a third option; slice or shred the veg.  You can do this quickly and easily with the cutting disk on a food processor.  You can also use a mandolin or a very sharp knife.  You can then cook them without blanching and shocking.

Braised and Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

1 ½ pounds cleaned sprouts

1/3 cup white wine

1/3 cup water

4 tablespoons butter, divided

Salt & pepper

Place veg, wine, water, 3 tablespoons butter and a pinch each of salt and pepper into skillet.  Cover and cook on medium until sprouts are tender, but not mushy (6-8 minutes).

Uncover and cook until liquid’s cooked out and sprouts are starting to color.  Flip and let other side brown.

Stir in the other tablespoon of butter to pick up any browning on skillet and give Brussel Sprouts a nice, buttery gloss.  Check for seasoning.

Serves 6-ish.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

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