Brussels Sprouts

by Kerry Dunnington

I must have been in my late teens when I first saw brussels sprouts appear on my plate. Many years later, I thought how clever my mother was to introduce her brood of five to a sophisticated vegetable only when our palates were mature enough to appreciate them. She introduced them around Thanksgiving and served them alongside stuffed pork chops and sweet potatoes.

Not only was the combination seasonal, colorful and complementing, the brussels sprouts were cooked and seasoned to perfection. Her recipe, she told us, couldn't be simpler, after steaming the miniature green cabbages until fork tender, my mother tossed them with brown butter (butter she had slightly browned over a medium flame). The sprouts were coated with the butter and seasoned with salt. The result was yummy. Brussels sprouts were the accompaniment to many of our dinners through the duration of the fall and winter months.

Brussels sprouts grow in a spiral pattern on robust two to three foot high stalks; each stalk, depending on height, yields about 20-30 sprouts. Farmers' markets and some grocery stores sell brussels sprouts attached to the stalk. While this is my favorite way to buy them and certainly the freshest, they are more commonly sold after they have been cut from the stalk. When selecting, chose firm, small, compact sprouts that are a vivid sage green, avoid any sprouts with yellowed leaves. For uniform cooking, select sprouts that are equal in size. Wash and prepare sprouts just before cooking. Fresh sprouts will keep refrigerated in a perforated bag for 5 or more days.

The secret to great tasting brussels sprouts is in the cooking; they are best cooked until just fork tender. When perfectly cooked, these sage green nuggets have a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.

To prepare for cooking, soak sprouts in a bowl of tepid water for about 10 minutes. Rinse and trim stem end. To ensure even cooking, cut an X about a 1/4-inch deep into the remaining base of each sprout. Brussels sprouts can be boiled, braised, roasted or steamed but to retain the most nutrients and for maximum cooking results they are best steamed. Cooking times vary depending on size, cook for about 5-10 minutes, careful not to overcook, after 5 minutes, check every few minutes.

Brussels sprouts are a tempting side to baked chicken, stuffed pork chops, pork tenderloin and braised short ribs and if your don't serve sauerkraut with turkey on Thanksgiving, (a tradition among many) Brussels sprouts make a colorful and unique addition to this holiday meal.


Hopefully I have influenced you (if you've gotten this far, I have dutifully done my brussels sprout convincing) to be a fan of sprouts -or at least willing to try this recipe. My husband Nick is the official taste tester for the recipes I create, this recipe is among his favorites.

  • 1/2 cup butter, (1 stick)
  • 2 packages or 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts (about 2 dozen)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon peel, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

To prepare sauerkraut-style brussels sprouts, remove stem, cut in half lengthwise, thinly slice each half widthwise. In a large pan, melt butter over moderate heat, add Brussels sprouts and salt, stir to evenly coat sprouts with butter. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 5- 10 minutes or until nearly fork tender, stirring occasionally. Add lemon peel and juice, stir, cover and cook an additional 2-5 minutes or until just tender. Season with pepper.

Serves 6

Kerry Dunnington is author of "This Book Cooks" and is a member of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance and Slow Food International. Kerry's cooking demonstrations and presentations reflect and support her beliefs in local, sustainable, seasonal and organic.

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