Brussels sprouts have always been my favorite, but we used to only eat them at Thanksgiving. While they are more plentiful during the holiday season, they are available year round – you’ll even find them in the frozen foods section of your local market.
According to MelinePlus.com, Brussels sprouts are chock-full of antioxidants – they fall in right behind kale and spinach in the leafy greens category. All of these antioxidants help to prevent cell damage, which can lead to cancer and premature aging.
One serving or one-half cup of prepared Brussels sprouts will provide you with half of your daily required amount of vitamin C.
These super-veggies are also packed full of other vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are rich in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate.
One of their better attributes is the fact that the leaves are packed tightly, making them filling but low in calories.
Now, one might think that adding a little bacon grease to them kind of defeats the purpose. Well, a little bacon grease never hurt anyone! And fats make the absorption of all of those fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A and K) so much easier for your body.
I prefer mine steamed (along with most of my vegetables) rather than boiled. I like them al dente and definitely not mushy – plus, this helps to keep more of the vitamins intact.
The addition of herbs and spices like fennel seed and dill also helps to keep the added sodium content to a minimum, and the various flavors and textures combine to make a veg side that’s truly delicious.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step One – Prep
Thoroughly wash the Brussels sprouts in a colander and let drain.
Step Two – Steam
Use a small stainless steel stockpot or a soup pot with a steamer insert to steam the veggies. You don’t want to overdo this – they should be just al dente.
There’s nothing worse than mushy, yucky Brussels sprouts, and this is probably how they earned their bad reputation. I left mine in for about five minutes.
Remove from heat and drain well.
Step Three – Mmmm, Bacon!
Slice your bacon up into strips about 1/2 to 1 inch wide. Add the pieces to a skillet set on medium to medium-high heat (depending on your skillet and heat source). On my portable induction unit, I had it set on 7/10.
You’ll want to cook the bacon until it is done, but not crispy. It’ll be charred at the end if you let it cook more than to the point where it’s just done at this phase of the recipe.
I like to use a carbon steel skillet for this type of cooking. I find that it adds a bit of unique texture and flavor that really can’t be described (at least by me).
Here, I’m using a Lodge 12-inch carbon steel model that is reviewed in detail in this article.
Cast iron would also work but you need to be careful to remove the ingredients as soon as they are done. They will become overcooked if left in the pan, even if it is removed from the heat source.
If you are cooking in cast iron (or if you prefer to skip the steaming step), you may choose to remove the bacon from the pan at this point and set it aside until your Brussels sprouts are nearly cooked, to avoid burning.
Step Four – Bring on the Veggies!
Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan along with the fennel seed and dill. You may want a little more or a little less of both.
I used peppered bacon when preparing this, but if you used regular thick-cut slices, you can add some freshly ground pepper at this point.
Continuing sautéeing for another 5-7 minutes. Remember – don’t overcook. You want the veggies to be al dente, not mushy, and you don’t want the bacon to be charred.
Step Five – Plate
Test for saltiness (bacon varies) and add some more to taste if you need it. Plate and serve.
This recipe can serve as a meal for one person, or a side dish for a very small family. For four or more adults, you’ll want to double it.
What about you? Do you have any tips for making this maligned vegetable more palatable for the masses? Be sure to tell us, and the community, in the comments below!
Photos by Mike Quinn, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally posted July 11, 2015. Revised and updated August 14, 2016.
About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.