Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon are served with a simple sweet and sour vinaigrette. Styling by Joan Moravek. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Photo: Abel Uribe/TNS
Photo: Abel Uribe/TNS

How to roast Brussels sprouts to crispy goodness

He’s not a fan of vegetables, she confided via encrypted email. Too mushy, he claims. Could I help?

 I didn’t know her. I didn’t know him. But it sounded serious. Sometimes a cook has to step out of her kitchen and stare down trouble. I took the case. 

 I packed my tools: knives, aprons, scale; I packed my technique: high heat. At the airport, I picked them out of the crowd with ease: pale, low on greens. 

 Back at their place, we worked through pastry, pasta, pan sauce. The room fell silent. I leveled with the guy: You don’t like vegetables. He threw his wife a desperate look. She had turned him in. 

 Don’t worry, I said. We’ll make ’em crisp. We gutted a pound of Brussels sprouts and splayed them flat onto the sheet pan. I gave it to him straight: 450 degrees. He looked skeptical but turned the oven up and slid the pan in. He talked about his father, who survived the war on sprouts and never downed another. I turned a cold shoulder and pulled out the hot pan. 

 The compact cabbages bristled deep brown — brittle outside and buttery within. We speared and bit. She smiled. He smiled. If only his dad could have met the enemy in peacetime. 

 My work there was done. I packed my knives, but not my vigilance. The cook never knows when trouble may strike. Again. 

 ——— 

 CRISP SPROUTS 

 Prep: 15 minutes 

 Cook: 20 minutes 

 Makes: 2 cups, serves 3 

 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts 

 2 tablespoons olive oil 

 1 teaspoon kosher salt 

 3 strips bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips 

 Vinaigrette, recipe follows 

 1. Slice: Trim root end of sprouts. Halve sprouts north to south. Heap sprouts onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Toss with salt. Scatter on bacon. Spread out sprouts, cut sides down. 

 2. Crisp: Roast at 450 degrees, tossing once or twice, until dark and crisp, about 20 minutes. 

 3. Serve: You can simply sprinkle with a bit of red wine vinegar. Better yet, toss with the sweet/sour vinaigrette. Scrape onto a serving platter. Enjoy. 

 SWEET/SOUR VINAIGRETTE 

 Let 2 tablespoons chopped red onion mellow in 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. After 20 minutes, whisk with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and a little garlic mashed with salt.

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