Has there ever been a more remarkable reversal of image? Brussels sprouts, not so long ago derided as nothing more than a funky little cabbage, are suddenly sexy. You can't pick up a gastropub menu that doesn't include some variation of roasted sprouts, or a sprout salad of some kind. And they are rapidly working their way up the food chain. What's next? Brussels sprouts as the new foie gras?
But really, what's the surprise? Many of us have been closet sprout-lovers for years. Treated with a modicum of care, Brussels sprouts are one of the finest cool-weather vegetables. Cooked properly, they have all the delicate sweetness of great cabbage, but with a more complex vegetable flavor.
And they've even got wow factor. If you really want to stun people, use a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts as a centerpiece — they look like a vegetable from Mars.
To get the best out of Brussels sprouts, treat them gently. Start with selection — the smallest sprouts seem to be the sweetest. Then trim them carefully, removing any outer leaves that look pale or yellow, paring the hard base and cutting an "X" in the bottom to allow the heat to penetrate the tightly bunched leaves.
Finally, and most important, cook them briefly — they should be tender but still have a trace of crispness at the center. Undercook them and the flavor is bland and grassy; overcook them and it's sulfurous. But when you hit that sweet spot (five to seven minutes in a steamer), the colors are vivid and the flavor is complex.
That's just the start. You'll find a dozen more recipes for Brussels sprouts when you visit here.
How to choose: Select Brussels sprouts that are vivid green and tightly closed. As they sit, the leaves will begin to separate and the edges will yellow. Squeeze the head — it should be hard enough that there is very little give.
How to store: Brussels sprouts should be refrigerated in a tightly sealed bag.