Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprout Love

Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. There is very little middle ground where they are concerned. Our family falls into the “love” category. In fact, I have been known to order Brussels sprouts as my main course at our favorite restaurant.

Brussels sprouts are now known to top the list of cruciferous vegetables. While all cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates (the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances), Brussels sprouts have been shown to have greater amounts of  glucosinolates than those found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli.

These Brussels sprouts are very hearty and smell delicious, and go very well with pork dishes. Take care not to overcook the sprouts because not only will they lose their nutritional value and flavor, but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell that is so often associated with overcooked cabbage.

  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 4 ounces (about ½ cup) bacon, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Wash, trim and cut the Brussels sprouts in half. Next, place a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook bacon turning, until crisp and until fat renders (about 2 to 3 minutes.) Transfer to paper towels to drain.

While bacon is cooking, prepare Brussels sprouts by removing brown and damaged outer leaves and trimming the bottoms. To help Brussels sprouts cook more evenly (and quickly), cut each sprout in half. Add the smashed garlic clove, crushed red pepper (if you are using) and Brussels sprouts to the rendered bacon fat in the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally (and gently) until slightly caramelized (about 3 minutes).

Add water to the pan and gently scrape the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Then simmer, covered, for approximately 5 minutes until sprouts are fork tender but not mushy. Remove lid and add a splash of vinegar and reduce until syrupy, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Crumble bacon over the Brussels sprouts and toss with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkling of shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.