Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

~If at first it's not tasty, try, try again.~
"I really want to love you, you adorable little baby cabbages!"  How many times does one try to love Brussels sprouts?  Usually once, I'm guessing, with the sprouts never to be tried again.  I remember my first attempt long ago at some random buffet.  Full of mush they were, and not the lovey-dovey kind.  Years passed, and I got the notion I could do a sprout some justice in my own kitchen.  A little salt, a little pepper, an adequate slathering of butter on those frozen-in-the-bag-then-cooked-up-real-good orbs.  Oh my!  They were not great:  still the same not-in-the-good-way mushy, but also bitter like a sprout scorned.  A saucepan full of little Maria Shriver, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Aniston sprouts, if you will.  My disdain lived on.

Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago when I met my friend, Amy, for drinks and appetizers.  As great conversation tends to do when chicks get together, the talk zigged and zagged all over the place.  It inevitably landed on Food:  gumbo, spatzle, arugula, kale, collard greens (yes, we ran the gamut on greens), holiday dinners, then - KAPOW! - Brussels sprouts.  Amy insisted fresh is the only way.  I had my doubts but was conflicted, because I trust Amy's judgement.  I resolved to give them the ol' Third Time's The Charm if the opportunity ever presented itself, but I most certainly would not go out of my way to make it so.  I mean c'mon... we're talking about Brussels sprouts here, folks.

Then Saturday happened.  Knowing the brand new Trader Joe's store opened just minutes from my house, and knowing full well how I avoid crowded stores like.. like Brussels sprouts, I cruised their website instead.  There on the home page were the most amazing-looking Brussels sprouts you can imagine. The most festive, delectable, gorgeous little gems ever!  I immediately posted the link to Amy's Facebook wall, then I charged full steam ahead to Trader Joe's.

Let's just pause here to give a big shout out to Atari games of the '80s!  Like riding a bike, you apparently don't lose those skills.  I was able to deftly maneuver my cart around more moving obstacles than the highest level of Frogger.  Maintaining my focus amongst the madness, I spied those sprouts.  I had never seen how they grow on the plant, and I eyed the stalks in amazement.  A stranger struck up a conversation.  After my sales pitch about the web site recipe, he grabbed a stalk and said I should work there.  I said, "Nah, I'm just a recipe hound," and walked away sproutless.  I wasn't ready.

Then Sunday happened.  Amy replied online that the recipe looked interesting, and she'd have to try it.  Welp, that sent me over the edge.  Trader Joe's IS only a few minutes away.  How bad can it be on Sunday?  UGH.  Frogger all over again!  This time I grabbed a hand basket (because if you're going anywhere torturous, there's got to be a hand basket, right?), made a beeline for those stalks, then the crans, then the syrup, then olive oil.  I had olive oil at home, but the little shelf tag said really fabulous things... sucker!

Then guess what happened.  I came home, roasted them up with minor adjustments to the online version, and we found a Keeper. As I told Dear Husband (aka HotDog) about this post, I recited the tagline:  "If at first it's not tast-EEE, try, try again," and he immediately followed it with, "and add syrup."

Roasted Brussels Sprouts slightly adapted from Trader Joe's
1 stalk (or two-ish pounds - just guessing here) fresh Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
If you buy the sprouts on the stalk, eyeball it with the inside of your microwave and cut the stalk in two parts so you can make sure it fits for what I will call the pre-steam.  Leave the part with the most sprouts alone and cut the sprouts off the other part.  For harmonious veggie Zen, I also snipped off those crazy, porcupiney, leafless ribs with my poultry shears.
Put the loose sprouts in a bowl and rinse them very well.  Drain and cover the bowl with plastic wrap; microwave for 3-4 minutes.  Rinse the stalk really well, too, and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Microwave this for about 4-5 minutes.
Whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
Put all the sprouts on a baking pan and brush with the olive oil/syrup mixture.  Sprinkle with the dried cranberries.
Roast in the oven for a total of 45-50 minutes or until the sprouts are fork-tender and the outer leaves start to carmelize.  Be careful not to overcook, lest they lose flavor.  And in this case, losing flavor means love lost.  When mine had 15 minutes left, I stirred them around and brushed them again with the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan.
My bread tray made an unconventional but perfect serving dish.


UPDATE:  These were SO good, I even had them for leftovers the next night.

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