Everyone has that food from their childhood that they absolutely hated. The ones where you would have the 3-hour-long after dinner standoff at the table with your parents, still refusing to eat it and join “the clean plate club.” Some things just were not worth the rewards, which for me ranged from watching TV, playing with my friends, or “gasp” eating dessert. For most of us those foods were vegetables, for me Brussels sprouts was that food. They were that one thing that I would always refuse to eat. They were gross enough to eat when steaming hot, let alone after it had gone cold and limp – yuck!
Unfortunately that mindset stuck with me until a couple of years ago. I was out with a friend and she was raving about going to lunch at a new restaurant so that can order the seasonal – wait for it – Brussels sprouts salad. I was initially grossed out. I still had thoughts of the limp textureless, bitter sprouts of my childhood. That is until her salad came and it looked amazing. I’m still grateful that she let me taste it. It had crunch, it had bite, it was a bit sweet, and a bit bitter, it really was delicious. It also made me realize that I had long since misjudged the tiny Brussels sprout.
I really try to keep an open mind about most foods and encourage others to do the same. I often remind myself that just because a food is awful when prepared one way doesn’t make the food awful, it makes that method of preparation awful. Fried Brussels sprouts? – no thanks. Brussels sprouts that have been cooked to mush? – again, no. Brussels sprouts that have ever been frozen? – absolutely not. Fresh Brussels sprouts that have been lightly cooked and thoughtfully seasoned? – I’ll take seconds.
I’ve been playing with both cooked and uncooked versions of Brussels sprouts; as a hash, a slaw, a salad, or a side. The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is fit to stand at the center stage of your meal. It’s complex, savory with a hint of sweet. I’ll eat a double serving for lunch, serve it with a steak or chicken for heartier meal, or even top it with a fried egg for a twist on brunch. There is a lot going on in this dish and it doesn’t need to compete with other super complex flavors. We have the smokiness of the bacon, the bite of the balsamic, the sweetness of the dried currants, the smooth silkiness of the avocado, and the crunch of the sprouts. Like I said, there is a lot going on here.
The key to this recipe is that you must use fresh Brussels sprouts. They are coming into season now and should be around until just past the first of the year. In other words, you have lots of time to eat them lots of ways! Sometimes I can find the sprouts still on their stalk, which is my preferred way to purchase them. Take them home and place the end of the stalk in water, like flowers in a vase. Place it uncovered near the back of the fridge. Use the sprouts from the bottom of the stalk first. Each time you take a few off, trim the stalk about a half to one inch. As the stalk sucks more water up, it’s keeping the sprouts alive. It’s not a perfect method, but it seems to keep them healthy looking for a couple of weeks. If the external leaves start to dry out, trim them away before using the rest of the sprout. Whatever you do, DO NOT FREEZE THEM! Freezing them will break down the cellular walls and you will end up with mushy sprouts every time.
This recipe makes one lunch sized portion or two dinner sized sides. It’s easy to adjust if you are making for more (or less). The Brussels sprouts will need to be cleaned and thinly sliced. You can use a mandolin if you have one, but I prefer a sharp knife. We are aiming for thin, shred-like slices – about the same size you would use for coleslaw. Next, dice your onion. Then lay out the rest of your ingredients, with measuring spoons and cups ready to go. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, cut your strip of bacon in half and add to the pan.
I use the thick bacon from the butcher. Not only is it twice as thick as the stuff that comes in a package labeled as “thick cut” but it’s usually half the price. Check for yourself, but I usually find packaged bacon for between $7 – $12 a pound depending on the label. My butcher sells it everyday for $3.99 a pound. Granted I get about 10 slices to the pound instead of 12 – 16, but for that price I can buy 2 pounds. The thicker bacon does take a bit more time to cook, but the flavor is so much more intense. I flip it a couple of times to keep it from getting too brown, as I’m not a fan of crispy bacon. Once it reaches your desired degree of doneness, remove it from the pan and place on a double layer of paper towels to absorb any extra grease.
Remove all except 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease from the pan. It’s easiest if you pour the bacon grease into a small heat proof container – I use a ramekin or coffee mug – then add two teaspoons back to your hot pan. Add the diced onion to the hot grease and allow it to cook for two minutes. Then add the thinly sliced Brussels sprouts to the pan. Let them sizzle for a minute then give them a toss.
Your flame should still be at medium, but you will have to move fairly quickly with the next couple of additions to not over cook them. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and give them another toss. Then add the maple syrup and the balsamic vinegar. Let them cook a couple of minutes more tossing occasionally. Total cook time once the Brussels sprouts are in the pan is only about 4 minutes. We are aiming for tinder crisp.
Once the cooking time is up, scrape the Brussels sprouts into a medium mixing bowl. Slice up the bacon into thin strips. Halve an avocado and rough chop half of it into small pieces – they don’t have to be perfect. Add the bacon, avocado and dried currants to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts. I used currants because I happened to have them on hand. You can use raisins, sultanas, dried chopped dates or prunes, or even dried cranberries. I can see this on my Thanksgiving table with dried cranberries, but then I might have to share it. Stir all the ingredients to combine, being careful not to mash the avocado.
This dish is best served when still warm, but not hot. The perfect bite has a little bit of everything. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite way to eat Brussels sprouts?
What’s the one food from your childhood that you still won’t eat?!
Share below – I love hearing from my readers!
Brussels Sprout Hash
- 1 slice of thick bacon
- 2 tsp reserved bacon grease
- 1 TBSP diced red onion
- 4 Brussels Sprouts
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP maple syrup
- 1/2 avocado
- 2 tsp dried currants
Wash and thinly slice the Brussels sprouts, discarding the stems.
Dice the onion.
Over medium heat, fry bacon until it reaches your desired degree of doneness.
Place bacon on paper towels to drain.
Carefully pour the bacon grease into a heat proof container, adding 2 tsp back to the pan.
Add diced onion and cook for approximately two minutes.
Add sliced Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute then toss.
Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, continuing to cook for a total of 4 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Place cooked Brussels sprouts into a medium mixing bowl.
Slice cooked bacon into thin strips and rough chop 1/2 of an avocado.
Add bacon, avocado, and currants to the Brussels sprouts.
Toss to combine, being careful not to mash the avocado.
Serve immediately. Best enjoyed while warm.