I feel like American kids hate Brussels Sprouts because they're suppose to. No one really knows why, but you are just not supposed to like them. The big joke here is that when you become an adult you're supposed to LOVE them. I'm serious, all of my friends absolutely love Brussels sprouts. Therefore, I have to reveal my dirty little secret...I really don't like them. I mean, I'll eat them, but if you notice, I'm probably just pushing them around on my plate. The thing though is, I want to like them. I really do. So, I decided to try Sarah Leah Chase's Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts, it has maple syrup and bacon...so what could be bad about that? Plus it's the holiday season so the whole chestnuts roasting on an open fire thing was definitely playing in my head.
I learned a lot making this recipe. I learned that roasting chestnuts sounds romantic, but trying to peel them open is not. I confirmed my long standing belief that anything with bacon is delicious. Mostly though, I learned that I do actually like Brussels sprouts, in fact I dare say I LOVED them in this recipe, but that I've been cutting them and cooking them all wrong!
I'll be honest with you, this is not a quick recipe. It's pretty time consuming, at least if you're like me and don't really know what you're doing. I imagine with subsequent cooking it will get easier. For that reason, I would say this would be great for a holiday side, or a dinner party, but maybe too much work for a quick week night meal. That being said this dish is both elegant and earthy, so you really can serve it whenever and really wow people. So if you have an hour to spare, give it a go!
First gather your ingredients. It's not an extensive list, and I've never bought chestnuts before, so frankly that was a little exciting... Why yes people in the check out line, I'm buying chestnuts because I'm cool and gourmet and know what to do with them....
So as you can see, it's not an extensive list, but I had no idea how to actually roast chestnuts (although I did consider putting them in my fireplace) and I had no idea what they mean they meant by "X" on the Brussels sprouts bottom.
Luckily, Chase gives some great advice about the chestnuts, so I'll pass it on to you. First you cut an "x" on the flat side of the chestnut with a sharp knife. This was actually really hard to do, I sort of ended up sawing them...oops. It's a really important step though.
Once you do that, put them on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 8-10 minutes. Once they are done let them cool (seriously, when you think they're done...let them cool a little more). You don't want them to cool completely, but you don't want them hot. Once you remove them from the microwave you should be able to peel them, using the aforementioned 'X' as a starting point. I had a few troublesome ones. For those I took my chef's knife, put it on top and slapped it down garlic style. I have no idea if that was an okay thing to do, but it worked so there ya go.
Congratulations, now you have peeled chestnuts! You have also no doubt made a mental note to simply buy pre-peeled chestnuts next time, even if you don't look as cosmopolitan in the check out line.
So now it's on to the Brussels sprouts. For years I've simply been rinsing them and popping them right on a sheet pan to roast with oil, salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic. Bf (who loves Brussels sprouts) has never complained, but I always find them very cabbagy and bitter tasting.
Well now I know, it's because I was doing it all wrong! So I'm sure you know this (apprently it's common knowledge) but if you don't here's how to prep Brussels sprouts:
1. Cut off the bottom where the leaves meet them stem
2 Peel away the loose outer layer until you get a tightly packed little guy
3. slice an "x" into the bottom to allow steam to get all up in there and cook them correctly
This makes a world of difference, the bitter taste was gone! Who knew? Oh wait, everyone but me, now I do though.
Okay, everything is prepped now (phew) and you can start. Steam the Brussels sprouts for 8-10 minutes. When they're done (just slightly tender but still a little crisp), drain the liquid and set aside.
Simmer the peeled chestnuts and chicken broth over medium heat for 25 minutes or so. They should be tender when they're done. A side bonus of this is that your house is going to smell fantastically festive.
At the same time, saute the bacon in a medium skillet. When they're crisp, place the bacon on paper towels to drain and pour all of the liquid except for 2 tablespoons out. I actually did this step the day before and reserved the bacon fat. This made the recipe quicker, but it probably lost a little flavor.
Cut the Brusells sprouts in half and add to the skillet along with the Chestnuts. Add 3 tablespoons of the chicken stock that was used to simmer the chestnuts, and the maple syrup.
Stir over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until a glaze is formed. Add your bacon back in and season with salt and pepper.
The result is a delicately sweet, salty, nutty, and crunchy combination. It really was the perfect side dish for a cold winter night. I could see doing something similar in the spring with Asparagus. The next time I make it, I think I'll do the prep work the day before as that's what took me so long. This really was a spectacular dish and has made me a Brussels sprouts believer! What's your favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts?
The original recipe can be found in Sarah Leah Chase's Cold Weather Cooking on page 86