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The state of the sprout

I wait all year for Brussels sprouts. Many pine away patiently for October’s first pumpkins or November’s puckery cranberries, but I hang my hopes on a fresh fall Brussels sprout. This stance no doubt puts me in a minority—a happy one, meaning that entire market displays of sprouts are mine, all mine—but really, the state of the sprout in America today is a sad, sad thing. If another Thanksgiving dinner ends with a platter of Brussels sprouts still sitting untouched, we clearly have a national emergency, not a national holiday, on our hands.

For many, the merest mention of Brussels sprouts conjures up childhood visions of bitter, mushy, nose-wrinkling wads of cruciferous terror. I’ve seen even the most ardent of food lovers shrink before a pile of the little green orbs. This unfortunate aversion usually stems from one of two roots. First, Brussels sprouts are often cruelly boiled past their bright, verdant prime into olive-green oblivion, turning even the sweetest sprout bitter. And when overcooking is not the culprit, many cases of Brussels sprout phobia can be attributed to simple seasonality. Though sprouts can be found in the supermarket nearly year-round, they are markedly better—sweeter, with tighter, more compact heads—in the cold months. According to the lovely folks at Willie Green’s Organic Farm, sprouts that have weathered the first frost are much tastier than their spring- or summertime counterparts, which explains why I wait all year to, come fall, get my fill.

And that’s exactly what I do. Sometimes I roast them, halved and tossed with olive oil and sea salt, in a hot oven; sometimes I halve and sauté them with chestnuts. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of Brussels sprouts braised and glazed with a handful of whole peeled shallots, and I’ve heard rumors of bewitchingly good blanched sprouts sautéed in butter with red grapes and toasted pecans. But when Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll find me at the stove with a skillet of hashed Brussels sprouts with poppy seeds and lemon.

Tossed in a hot pan for a scant five minutes, the sprouts soften and give up their starchiness, wilting into a warm slaw scented with white wine and citrus. It’s a method my family stumbled upon several years ago, and a shoo-in for our holiday table. Come Thursday, we’ll unite in Oklahoma—Seattlites, New Yorkers, and those in between—to hash away at another year, giving thanks for another fall, another Brussels sprout, and a very happy minority.

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon
Inspired by The Union Square Café Cookbook

This recipe has brought many skeptics over to the pro-sprouts team. If you find yourself likewise converted and hungry for more, try this, this, this, or this. A whole universe is opening before you.

About 1 ¼ lbs Brussels sprouts
1 ½ Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs poppy seeds
¼ cup white wine
¼ tsp salt

Cut the stems from the Brussels sprouts and remove any blemished leaves. When all the sprouts are trimmed, you should be left with about 1 pound total. Halve each sprout lengthwise, and slice each half into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick; or, alternatively, hash them in a food processor fitted with the slicing disc attachment.

In a large bowl, toss the hashed Brussels sprouts with the lemon juice.

In a large skillet or sauté pan, warm the olive oil over high heat, almost to the smoking point. Stir in the hashed sprouts, garlic, and poppy seeds. Add the wine, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sprouts are bright green and lightly softened but still barely crunchy. Reduce the heat to low, season with salt, and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat, and serve.

Yield: About 4-6 servings.


Anonymous stephen said...

Hi Molly...I'm with you: totally sprouts-mad this time of year. In addition to the Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Garlic and Basil you linked to from your post (thank you very much), I've also recently posted Brussels Sprouts Antipasto Salad and Brussels Sprout and Celeriac Cream Soup with Parsely Pesto! Somebody stop me! I was just thinking how much I'd like to make some Brussels Sprouts Pancakes with onion marmelade...or maybe a nice Brussels Sprouts and Oyster Gratin for Thanksgiving...hmmm, or... maybe I'll just make that scrumptious-looking lemon juice poppy seed preparation from your post...it sounds PERFECT!

9:39 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger nm said...

At 5 bucks a pound those sprouts better be tasty. We just steamed ours for dinner and they seemed to dissapear. I'm going to buy some more next week at the market and try out your recipe. Thank goodness the market is on for Saturday!


10:05 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

Molly, my Thanksgiving dinner is going to be very very minimal this year. Possibly just be mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and some really good veg. I couldn't decide which but I think brussels sprouts will definitely be on the table. Love the little things and I haven't had one since last winter. Thanks for the inspiration.

10:08 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger scrummy-rubbish said...

due to my feared childhood memories, which you have nailed by the way, i have not been any kind of Brussels sprout lover. My significant other though thinks they are the best and chalks my experience up to one bad time. i think after the holidays i will borrow one of your recipes for sprouts and give it a go as you make them sound rather tasty. i'm always looking for new things to love (i'm passionate about leeks)so possibly this can be added to the list. cheers!

10:17 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger Elise said...

Oh my gosh, this recipe sounds delicious! I'll have to try it next time I make the sprouts. Thank you for posting (and thanks for the link btw!)

10:28 AM, November 21, 2005  
Anonymous sher said...

Yes, I'm one of those people who doesn't like brussels sprouts. My husband is madly in love with them, however. I've learned to fix them correctly, so they do taste better than the horrible specimens that I ate as a child. Still, I prefer to look at them, rather than eat them. I recently found that braising them produces a tasty sprout. And bacon!! Bacon helps a lot. Your recipe looks tempting.


10:40 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

I think they are cute because they look like little cabbages.

11:25 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger pomegranate said...

barbie cabbages. hehe. I love 'em and this looks delicious! Roasted has to be my current favorite, though. Roasted anything!


HE'S coming to Thanksgiving! (obligatory "AWWW!") and yay!

1:28 PM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger Meghan said...

I love brussel sprouts and roasted sprouts has become a traditional side dish for me and my BF as we create our own little traditions at Thanksgiving.

Thanks for this recipe. It looks terrific.

3:41 PM, November 21, 2005  
Anonymous Becca said...

thank you from a sister sprout lover! this is exactly the recipe I was looking for!

3:58 PM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I admit, I never liked Brussels sprouts because I was always subjected to the bitter olive-green variety myself. But you know, Molly, I think I'll just have to try this recipe and see if it converts me. (After all, I've gotten over my childhood loathing of beets this year... why not Brussels sprouts?) Happy Thanksgiving!

5:31 AM, November 22, 2005  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I have always loathed the bitter green bundles, but - like so many others - have a partner who loves them and Christmas is fast approaching (we don't "do" Thanksgiving over here!). Maybe this recipe will break the deadlock - you've not let me down so far, Molly!

7:09 AM, November 22, 2005  
Blogger David said...

I love brussels sprouts, especially when sautéed with some nice, crispy bacon and deeply caramelized. Yum!

8:42 AM, November 22, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Count me in among the haters, or at least among the have-successfully-avoided-them-since-childhood crowd. I'm so moved by your beautiful tribute, however, that I'm starting to think the time is ripe to challenge the old prejudices. And when it happens you can be sure this will be the very first recipe I will try. Have a great Thanksgiving!

9:54 AM, November 22, 2005  
Blogger s'kat said...

I've said before that your love of the sprout has tempted me to go down that path; this posting is a reminder of that promise.

Before the week's end, I will buy the damned things and bravely conduct a taste-test. ;)

12:26 PM, November 22, 2005  
Blogger kickpleat said...

i've always been a huge fan of brussle sprouts and i'm so glad i married a man who loves them also. i hate it when i make brussle sprouts to a thanksgiving potluck and c and i are the only ones eating them. i don't get it! your hashed ones look interesting and i might just make them this weekend.

4:12 PM, November 22, 2005  
Anonymous joey said...

I love brussel sprouts! Yes, really. Thanks for sharing your recipe...another way to eat them, yey! :)

6:35 PM, November 22, 2005  
Anonymous mav said...

YEAH for brussels!! nice one molly.

7:37 PM, November 22, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

First, before I type anything else, I have to say that I am shocked--stupified, even--by this outpouring of love and support for the misunderstood sprout! It's beautiful. Thank you.

And now, to business:

Stephen, it's lovely to meet you. And many thanks for all your delicious-sounding options for Brussels sprouts! I see that you have now posted a recipe for that oyster gratin you mentioned; that's some pretty gorgeous stuff! I'm absolutely in awe of all you manage to churn out of one kitchen in one week. Now, about those pancakes with onion marmalade...

NM, if your steamed sprouts flew off the plates, I can only imagine how quickly you might plow through a bowl of hashed Brussels sprouts with poppy seeds and lemon. Thanks for giving 'em a go.

Amy, I never knew you were a fan of the sprout! Fantastic news, my friend. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Erik. xo

Scrummy-rubbish, first of all, you have a terrific name. Second, three cheers for your Brussels sprout bravery! Really, do give this hashed version a go. At last year's Thanksgiving, we had no less than three people around the table who simply couldn't believe they were eating Brussels sprouts. I've got my fingers crossed for you.

Elise, thank you. Your sprouts recipe sounds delicious too!

Sher, bacon is indeed the solution to many, many problems. And you know how I feel about braising! But really, however you prepare them, good for you for trying Brussels sprouts again after such childhood trauma...

Foodiechickie, I know. They're so sweet and innocent and harmless!

Pomegranate, you know, I hadn't thought of that. They're the perfect size for Barbie. Hot damn! And yes, roasted? Please. [And yes, Brandon? Please.]

Meghan, it sounds as though you and your boyfriend are starting all the right traditions! Happy Thanksgiving.

Becca, you're welcome! I'm happy to deliver.

Baklava Queen, I've got my fingers crossed that this will be the beginning of a positive new direction in your relationship with Brussels sprouts. One vegetal foe conquered, and the second should be a breeze!

Rachel, yours sounds like a tall order to fill, but by god, I think this recipe can deliver! I expect a full report...

David L, amen to that! Sounds delicious.

Melissa, you're a wise, worldly woman, and I know you won't let the nasty sprouts of your childhood get in your way. Be well, eat your sprouts, and happy Thanksgiving to you, my dear.

S'kat, be brave. You can do it. And whatever the outcome, I hope you'll send a detailed report. Please.

Kickpleat, how lucky you are to have gotten hitched to a fellow Brussels sprout lover! Enjoy him, and of course, the sprouts.

Joey, the world needs a few more enthusiastic Brussels sprout lovers like you!

And mav, so good to see you here, m'dear. Happy Thanksgiving!

8:12 PM, November 22, 2005  
Blogger Brian Gardunia said...

My mother adamantly hates the things and so I always assumed they were vile. One day while passing through the farmers market with my 4 year old daughter, we saw a mound of locally grown brussel sprouts near the fresh green beans, a mandatory stop. My daughter begged me to get some of the baby cabbages.

What kind of dad would I be if I didn't buy my kid brussel sprouts when she cries for them? So we brought them home and steamed them with some vinager and mustard. Now they are a family favorite.

12:09 PM, November 23, 2005  
Blogger Emmeya said...

I have wanted to love brussels sprouts my entire life, the dollhouse cabbageness of them. It wasn't until my coworker brought them in to work recently that I really liked them. she takes FROZEN sprouts and sautes them with bacon and garlic - and for some bizarre reason I became totally hooked! But as mostly vegetarian, I have been making them with BACOS. And they are great. So, I'm totally making all your different kinds as soon as I get home from my family-prison-at-the-beach-thanksgiving**. I'm ready for the fresh. I talked about making them today (thanksgiving) a lot, but in the end, I settled for the fabulous Ginger Pear Upside Down Cake as my contribution. It looks great, it is resting on top of a wardrobe at the rental beachhouse (on a plastic tray - substandard kitchen ) and everyone is foaming at the mouth for it. So, thanks for your contribution to my drunken holiday. (**disclaimer: stepfather's family, not my own!)

1:00 PM, November 24, 2005  
Blogger Emmeya said...

Let me add...the nasty old brussels sprout recipe is an adaptation of something Rachel Ray had when she visited Durham, NC, my town.

1:02 PM, November 24, 2005  
Anonymous Martha said...

First let me say I love love love your site. In fact, it's been my secret for months now, I haven't shared it with my sweetheart, but finally I had to spill the beans.
Here's what I wrote him:
"So I have a confession: For about 4 months now, I've been secretly reading a blog that I stumbled across. I don't know why I've kept it a secret, except that it seemed harmless, and I got a kind of child-like feeling of
protectiveness, like "this is MY blog, I found it, and it's my secret." Like a little secret hideout you find, a tree house in the woods, and common sense tells you that other people know about it, but it feels like your own secret.

Anyway, I'm ready to share it with you, you with whom I share
everything (I guess I'll have to find a new secret to keep), and the reason is: we simply must make this sausage dish."

We haven't made the sausages and grapes dish yet, but I faked your brussel sprouts recipe the other day from memory (with fresh tarragon instead of poppy seeds) and I want to say that though it didn't turn out perfectly, the next day I tossed the leftovers with balsamic vinager and olive oil and oh my, they turned delicous!

Thank you for your wonderful blog.

12:54 PM, November 29, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Brian, what a sweet little sprouts story! Your daughter obviously has very good taste.

Emmeya, that frozen sprout dish sounds intriguing...are they whole frozen sprouts, or cut up somehow? That Rachael Ray is quite crafty. And as for your drunken holiday, I hope the ginger pear upside-down cake was a hit--but then again, how can anything taste less than fantastic when you're consuming it in a beach house, icky step-family notwithstanding? Really.

And Martha, you're most welcome! It's lovely to meet you, and to be your little secret. I hope you and your sweetheart enjoy the sausages...

12:32 PM, November 30, 2005  
Blogger Emmeya said...

sThe sprouts are whole... http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_24835,00.html

The cake was delicious, but it was even more delicious in the kitchen of my beloved home at my after-Thanksgiving party! My cat nearly scratched my face trying to get some of it!

11:27 AM, January 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have left out the poppy seeds and add pomegrante seeds just before serving. They have been a hit at Thanksgiving.

11:13 AM, October 21, 2006  
Blogger Sheri said...

Yuuuum! And so beautiful too! I love your site, writing and recipes. I even have started mentioning you in my own budding food blog http://blog.foodista.com/

Thanks for the tips! I look forward to reading more. And, hearing more about your upcoming book!

Cheers and good eats! Sheri

6:39 PM, December 19, 2007  
Anonymous Niki said...

I know this post was written forever ago but, thank goodness for it! I, too, bite my lip with anticipation for autumn brussels sprouts. I like to roast them, halved and generously doused with walnut oil and a healthy grating of parmigiano-reggiano. My heart is racing just thinking about them!

10:36 AM, July 24, 2008  
Anonymous Rumela said...

Brussels sprouts recipe does look wonderful for kids of all ages. I know my husband will love eating this...as long as he can use his fingers.Thanks for sharing your recipe.

10:04 PM, March 04, 2009  
Anonymous Samieb said...

Hello Molly!
I just grabbed your book to give my mother for her birthday. I decided to give it a look see to see if she'd like it, and 1 long subway ride later - decided to keep it for myself!
I love that you have this Brussel Sprout recipe in here! In 1997 or so I made homemade cookbook of collected recipe's - and this was in it.
My friend Kimmarie made them for a NYC orphans Thanksgiving - and being a new cook, she was mortified to see how much they cooked down! They won me over to brussel sprouts though, and I've been making them ever since. In fact, I think it may have been the first time I said "you have to give me that recipe!"

All these years later I'm on edition 4 of the cookbook I compiled back then - and I use it all the time. Can't wait to add your sin!

A lovely book. I lost my dad a few years ago - and it was wonderful to hear you talk about yours.

Congrats on the book

11:59 AM, April 18, 2010  
Blogger Alison said...

I love brussel sprouts, but I have to admit that these really didn't do it for me. I made more than a pound, so maybe I didn't pump up the other stuff enough, but I was underwhelmed by the flavors. I still haven't found any method I like better than roasting.

7:13 PM, January 04, 2011  
Blogger Molly said...

Alison, I'm sorry to hear that this recipe wasn't a success for you! Say, do you ever squeeze a little lemon juice on your roasted Brussels sprouts? I've been doing that lately, and it really perks them up and balances their flavor.

7:51 PM, January 08, 2011  
Blogger Alison said...

Absolutely. Lemon makes many things better. But my favorite way to eat roasted brussel sprouts is with a bit of maple syrup, cider vinegar, and mustard. mmmmmm. I want to try the cream-braised brussel sprouts you posted but it may be a while before my hips can stand it.

7:51 AM, January 09, 2011  

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