This dish is one of my own creation. For our small Friendsgiving, I was asked to bring a side dish to compliment my friend Alex’s oven roasted chicken. There were a variety of things I could have chosen to make, and yet, I found myself drawn to the idea of Brussels sprouts. For years, I fought the thought of eating Brussels sprouts – everyone knows they’re gross. But it wasn’t until college that I realized that I had been misled – we had all been misled- about Brussels sprouts! They are not gross at all, and done properly, can be quite delightful.
And so I came to decide that Brussels sprouts, with their unique earthy vegetable flavor, were the way to go for a Friendsgiving dish. Just remember that, although they were perfect for Friendsgiving, they don’t have to only come once a year.
And since I just can’t help myself, here are some fun facts about Brussels Sprouts:
- they’re mini cabbages!
- They originated in Europe (thought to be Brussels, Belgium) and were brought to America in the 1800’s
- Most of the produce in the US is grown in the central valley of California and in Baja Mexico
- Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 3-4 garlic, minced
- 4 slices of thick bacon
- salt and pepper, to taste
Once you’ve washed and cut your Brussels sprouts, place them in a bowl and set aside.
Next, we add our sauces, which will serve as a marinade for now, but as a glaze later on! Although only adding a half cup may seem inadequate to providing enough flavor, please remember that the marinade is only meant to give them the beginnings of that delicious balsamic-maple sensation, as the glaze is really what will give the zing at the end. We will want to stir this all gently together, then let it sit in the fridge overnight (if possible).
Once they have thoroughly marinated, go ahead and take them out, putting them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add in the garlic and spread them throughout the sprouts. Bake the sprouts at 375° F for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the ferocity of your oven as well as whether you halved or quartered them. Do not discard the marinade.
While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, start on your bacon. I apologize that I do not have a picture to go with this – I seem to have misplaced it. That being said, you’ll want to cook the bacon thoroughly (as with all pork products) and then let it cool on a paper towel or separate plate. Once cooled, cut the bacon into small, bite-size pieces to disperse throughout the sprouts at the end.
Additionally, while the bacon and the sprouts are cooking, place the remaining balsamic vinegar-maple marinade in a small bowl and place on medium heat. Soon, it will begin boiling, at which point you’ll want to stir it periodically to keep it from burning. By reducing the water content in the balsamic vinegar and maple concoction, we are creating a delicious syrupy glaze that will help to not only coat our sprouts and give them that seductive caramel color, but to also enhance them with a burst of sweet and tart flavor. You’ll reduce for about 7-10 minutes, or until the syrup has decreased in volume by about 1/2. Please use your best judgement on the timing of the reduction as no one wants burnt balsamic-maple syrup.
Once all of the ingredients have been prepared and the Brussels sprouts are cooked, combine them all in a bowl or dish, add your salt and pepper, and serve! There is not much to the dish, but it definitely comes packing a punch of deliciousness. I hope that if you make this dish, you enjoy it surrounded by loved ones.