How To Make Brussels Sprouts, the New Foodie Favorite, Soft and Delicious

Slate's Culture Blog
March 28 2012 2:18 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Brussels Sprouts

1332957152320
Soy-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Photo by L.V. Anderson

Brussels sprouts’ transformation from maligned cafeteria gross-out fare to foodie luminary is complete. Trendy New York restaurants gussy them up with pig fat and sell them by the tiny $8 plateful; David Chang’s Brussels sprouts at New York’s Momofuku were so popular he had to take them off the menu for his cooks’ well-being. Popular food bloggers Ree Drummond (“absolutely to die for”), Deb Perelman (“I love those tiny cabbage-heads”), and Heidi Swanson (“it's not unusual for us to cook them … two or three times a week”) have sworn their allegiance.  “I love Brussels sprouts,” shout T-shirts, bumper stickers, and baseball caps.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

We get it: Brussels sprouts are delicious. Named for the Belgian capital (though originally from ancient Rome), they’re pleasantly dense—all those tightly packed layers of leaves—and milder than their cruciferous relatives (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). It’s pretty hard to ruin them unless you boil them to death or undercook them. Frankly, it’s their erstwhile bad reputation, not their newfound popularity, that’s baffling. (Scientists have suggested that some people’s distaste for the vegetable is due to genetics rather than culinary philistinism.)

Advertisement

Making Brussels sprouts delicious requires the usual suspects for making things delicious: fat, salt, and good timing. Fat is necessary less for its flavor than for its browning and crisping properties—without it, your Brussels sprouts will never be golden, crunchy, and gently caramelized. Salt is obviously a universal flavor enhancer, but it’s especially necessary to balance out Brussels sprouts’ inherent sweetness. And timing is more important for sprouts than for many other vegetables: You need to get them both 1) fully tender, but not mushy, and 2) deeply browned, but not charcoal-like.

My suggestion: soy-roasted Brussels sprouts, which might be called, more accurately, soy-baked-and-then-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Start by trimming the sprouts, which means taking off the stem with a paring knife (you’ll lose a few leaves, but don’t sweat it), and then halving them (the cut sides will absorb flavors better than the impervious exterior of whole sprouts). Toss them with peanut oil, soy sauce, and mustard, which adds a little electrifying punch, much like Jade Castrinos’ voice vis-à-vis Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Then throw them in the oven—first at a moderate temperature, to allow them to soak in the soy sauce and soften, and then at a higher temperature to crisp them up. Some of the stray leaves will shrivel and turn almost black; this is unavoidable, and you can still eat them if you don’t mind the burnt flavor. The intact halves will be permeated with soy sauce, easy to pierce with a fork, and patchily browned on the surface. Do they warrant public declarations of their to-die-for-ness? No. But they quietly live up to the hype.

Soy-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Yield: 4 side-dish servings
Time: 35 to 40 minutes

Oil for greasing the pan
1¼ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 13- by 18-inch baking sheet. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the peanut oil, soy sauce, mustard, and a little black pepper. Transfer to the greased baking sheet in an even layer and roast until the sprouts are partially tender, about 15 minutes. Stir and raise the oven temperature to 400°F. Continue to roast, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the sprouts are browned and fully tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.