Archive for October, 2013

Sage butter makes the Brussels better

Very often when I tell people that two of my favorite vegetables are beets and Brussels sprouts I get a look as if I just grew a second nose. “You can’t be serious” and “REALLY??!” are some of the most comment responses, along with “I can’t stand _____, I used to have to eat them as a kid, and….yuck!”

Sadly, I find that frequently both of these vegetables end up with an “F” grade because they aren’t cooked well AT ALL. Think of the last time you (or someone you know) cooked beets or Brussels sprouts. How many of you boiled a pot of water as the first step? If the second step was putting either of these veggies into that water, I can tell you already, you went wrong from the beginning.

You see, water is amazing. It gives us life, grows our food, washes away dirt and germs, however it can also steal away valuable and irreplaceable nutrients and flavor in cooking. With beets, this is easy to see. Almost immediately the water turns brilliant pink when beets are added. As you heat and boil these roots, the nutrients and flavors (especially the sweetness) trapped inside the veggies seep out into the water. When the cooking is done, where does that water go? Unless you’re using a bit of it for the recipe, the likely answer is “down the drain,” and with it most of what makes the beets taste good. The same can be said for Brussels sprouts. The results are flavors described as “bitter,” “bland,” and generally disgusting. I know there are other reasons people don’t like these two veggies including texture and smell, but cooking them poorly doesn’t help.

There are many great suggestions for roasting, sautéing and otherwise NOT boiling both beets and Brussels sprouts. By far, the best method for beets is roasting, but I will leave those directions for another day. Today I want to focus on the sprouts.

A few years ago a colleague introduced me to sage butter. Sage was an herb I previously shied away from, feeling completely incompetent in its use. But combine it with butter and… heaven. Add sprouts, yeah, awesome.

Sage butter brussel sprouts

Sage Butter Brussels Sprouts

  • Butter, half stick or more
  • Fresh sage leaves, half cup or more
  • Brussels sprouts, 2-3 cups
  • Sea salt

In a large pan, add a lot of butter (seriously, don’t be stingy, a good half stick or more is appropriate). Using fresh sage, tear up about a half cup up of rinsed leaves, more if you like  – they will cook down, so it’s important to at least cover the bottom of the pan once, but I like closer to twice. Turn the heat to low, cover and let alone for 30 minutes minimum, I suggest 45 mins to an hour if you have time. Stir a few times  to coat the leaves, otherwise, as long as the butter does not bubble (too hot!), you should be able to set a timer and walk away.

While the butter is doing its thing, rinse your sprouts. You’re going to want enough to cover the bottom of the pan once when they’re cut in half, but up to two layers deep will work. Slice each sprout in half. Remove bad spots and trim ends if brown. As a veggie with several layers, I recommend soaking and/or rinsing them again once cut in half.

The next part is something I experimented with many times, but it seemed hit or miss on getting just the right texture, flavor and color. Last fall, however, I found this recipe for Golden-Crusted Brussel Sprouts. It’s quick and delivers just the right tenderness, maintains the lovely bright green color and adds a touch of mouth-watering caramelization. While the referenced recipe uses oil, we’ll continue with our sage butter.

Once your butter is ready (give it a taste, should be infused with sage-y goodness), dump in the sprouts. Turn the heat up to medium and stir to cover the sprouts with butter. Sprinkle with a shake of sea salt and cover. The moisture on the sprouts (from rinsing) and in the butter will “steam” the veggies. Cook for 5-7 minutes, uncover to stir and taste test. Depending on the size of your sprouts and how many you’re cooking, they may take a few more minutes to be tender. You’re going for something similar to “al dente” in the pasta world, or “just tender” as the other author put it. If they’re not quite ready, put the lid back on and allow to cook for a few more minutes. When ready, remove the cover, add another shake of sea salt, turn heat to high and allow to caramelize. I suggest turning a few times, so you can get browning on both sides, but the main thing is to not let the butter burn (browning is ok). This heat will also cause the sage to get a little crispy – one of the best parts, in my opinion.

IMG_0676[1]While I know this recipe won’t convert every person who despises sprouts, I promise it will convince at least some of the “sprout curious” or those open to giving them a second chance after childhood trauma.

October 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment


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