The thing about caramelized brussels sprouts is that they are a) adorable, b) delicious, and c) healthy, because they’re like baby cabbages disguised as beautiful food.
On our Washington, D.C. weekend getaway, I found various forms of brussels sprouts on every restaurant menu. Caramelized, roasted, chopped, sauteed, braised, you name it. And obvi, I ordered all of them. But there was only one that really made my heart flutter, and that was the caramelized brussels sprouts. How can a real live person say no to that crispy, golden exterior? So lightly sweet and so perfect.
And this is still a VEG-E-TA-BLE we’re talking about here.
Brussels sprouts are totally trendy right now, so in addition to being delicious and 150% cute, if you like them you get a free pass to the Cool Kidz Club because of their built-in awesomeness. And a bonus 200 cool person points for caramelizing them with a sweet maple orange sauce. And crumbling bacon all over them. And yeah, I’m serious.
I made these three different times because I am kind of picky about texture. The first time, they were sure crispy alright. Like, CRISPY crispy. My oven is a leetle bit over-zealous, and it’s all my oven. Totally all my oven. The second time, they were smushy and soft when sauteed on the stovetop. Not so much, friends. We’re looking for the light crunch factor here.
So the final time, when I got the crunch just right but not too much, it was by doing this:
That’s right, cut side down, in the pan. Not ideal for my lazier moments, because you have to literally place them one. by. one. in the pan. It requires moving your hands for at least two minutes, which… I know. WHAT IS THIS. It’s like I became your bossy Jillian Michaels. But the one on one attention to place each of them down in the pan is so worth it. They browned evenly on the cut side, cooked just enough to be fork tender on the back side, and then just sizzled to a perfect caramelization state when I added the sauce.
Angels singing? I hear it too. LALALALALALA.
This plus bacon plus Parmesan equals done. Delicious and done.
And keep barking up that brussels sprouts tree because –>
- 6 slices bacon
- 20 brussels sprouts
- juice of one navel orange (I got about ¼ cup)
- 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons stone ground mustard
- 2 teaspoons cane vinegar (any kind would work)
- 2 teaspoons real maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Parmesan for topping
- Remove the base of the brussels sprout by cutting off just the very bottom part of the stem (it’s white). If you cut too much off, the leaves will fall apart, so be careful. Slice the brussels sprouts in half as pictured and set aside.
- Puree the orange juice, shallot, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, maple syrup, and salt in a food processor until a smooth sauce forms. Taste and adjust if you want more of a certain flavor. Set aside.
- Fry the bacon according to package directions until crispy. Drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, chop into small pieces. Pour the hot grease into a small heatproof container and set aside.
- Return the same pan to medium high heat and add the brussels sprouts to the pan, cut side down. Drizzle with a little bit of the reserved bacon grease (1-2 teaspoons) and gently push the brussels sprouts around in the pan, keeping them cut side down. You might need to do it twice depending on how many you can fit in your pan at one time. After about five minutes, when the brussels sprouts have browned slightly on the cut side and the pan is hot, pour the sauce in with the brussels sprouts. It will sizzle like crazy; that’s perfect! Pick the pan up by the handle(s) and shake it a little bit so that the brussels sprouts move around in the pan. They burn easily, especially once the sugars are there, so do this quickly (1 minute or less) and remove from heat when you have the right amount of caramelization. Toss with the reserved bacon and Parmesan cheese. Yummay!