You might think I am making that statement about me, but actually I am making it about you. Brussel sprouts were your least favorite food. Right? Right.
Why were they your least favorite food? They were my least favorite food because my mother only ever boiled them in hot water. I don’t know why. I guess because we weren’t really home cooked meal people? We were more restaurant people? I have such fond associations with restaurants that when I see children under the age of ten eating gnocchi in a trattoria I feel immediately homesick for my family.
Do you find that? By “Italian restaurant” and “gnocchi” I really mean that every time I went to a piano recital my parents would reluctantly let me go and have two donuts of my choice at Dunkin Donuts as a reward afterwards. Every time I pass a Dunkin’ Donuts, I think about my parents sitting there in evening clothes, my mother eating a donut hole which she’d pry apart daintily, and me, at seven, trying to suck the filling out of a jelly donut with it clenched in my teeth, waving my hands around in a parody of children who could ride bikes. So, eating donuts like a monster. Like a weird fucking monster.
Was it like that for you?
I never feel like I deserve to go to Dunkin’ Donuts now.
So, basically it was only on Thanksgiving that we really did much home cooking, and one part of that was brussel sprouts, which were boiled in water and then served up like these horrible little dead martian heads.
Brussel sprouts boiled in water taste like lettuce that curled up in a ball and died horribly.
Actually, most of the Thanksgiving meal involved boiling things in water. Why didn’t we just go to a restaurant? That was absurd of us. Anyhow, we all ate them with a sort of steadfast diligence I think is generally best observed in convicts in Johnny Cash songs. That is to say we smiled and longed for death’s sweet reprieve. And coffee.
I called my mother and asked her why we never tried doing anything different with the brussel sprouts.
“First of all, you recall that Grandma doesn’t cook, right? And she hated brussel sprouts. But she knew my father liked them so she made them on Thanksgiving, and she never tasted them since she had no vested interest in them.”
“Wait. She never tasted them? Why? Why would she cook something without trying it?”
“Grandpa liked them. She wanted to make him happy at Thanksgiving. She didn’t need to taste them. The second part of this was in Canada there’s a fallback to the Empire, so, yay, Queenie. In that British way there’s a whole love for food that tastes sort of like it’s been sitting in chafing dishes. For days. My father liked that taste. Where it’s all a little soggy and steamy and flavorless? So he liked his brussel sprouts that way. He liked the British steam table feel to them. So that was the only way I knew. I carried on with the only way I knew. This makes me sound noble. I believe in heritage!”
Not to be a hero, here, but I’m determined to buck the terrible brussel sprouts that have long haunted the women of my family.
Because as soon as I moved to New York, I realized that well done brussel sprouts are pretty much the most delicious food in the entire world. They’re really, really good. Roasted brussel sprouts? They are fantastic.
This has lead to me being kind of obsessed with finding a recipe that will help me get them to taste as good as they do in restaurants and as far as possible from the way I tasted when I was a kid.
I found this reciple! From TheWannaBeCountryGirl:
Slice the ends off of each sprout and cut them in half.
Drizzle on about 2 tablespoons of grapeseed, or olive oil. Just enough to coat each sprout. Toss in a good-sized pinch of kosher salt and ground pepper.
Line the pan with non-stick aluminum foil. It makes it easier to turn them without breaking them up.
Run them into a preheated oven at 400′ for about 20 to 30 minutes, using a spatula to turn them half way through cooking.
While they’re cooking, add 1 tablespoon of butter to a small saucepan, followed by 1 tablespoon honey. Warm the honey butter on low heat until combined. (ED NOTE: I added two tablespoons of each, because that was a good idea).
Add 1/4 cup of chopped pecans to a small cookie sheet and run them in the 400′ oven for about 4 to 5 minutes.
Then pour on the honey butter and pecans.
This is how they came out in the recipe on TheWannaBeCountryGirl, who I bet had a mother that cooked and isn’t try to shake off 100 years of non-cooking tradition, here:
This is how they came out in my real, actual life. AS YOU CAN SEE THEY CAME OUT BETTER BECAUSE I ADDED BACON.
I HAVE TRIUMPHED.
Sort of, anyway. They tasted good! But possibly not as good as the ones in restaurants. Got any good recipes? What is “sriracha?” People keep recommending it for brussel sprouts? Can I substitute regular tabasco sauce for it? Also, are they deep frying brussel sprouts in restaurants? Is that why they taste so unbelievably good?
My moment of triumph has worn off. Good is not enough. We now aspire to greatness.