I would never call myself a picky eater, but I realize I can be pretty closed minded about what I cook. I decide early on that I don’t like something (like coleslaw, for example) and I will stop eating it for twenty years.

It’s the same way for me with brussels sprouts. I remember my mother cooking them for my father and being disgusted by the smell. He loved them, and I could never understand why he would want to eat something round and green and stinky. But my success the other day with the coleslaw made me think twice when I saw brussels sprouts at the market, and so, on impulse alone, I bought them and started looking for a recipe.

Everything I read said that the brussels sprouts would turn bitter if over cooked, and that was the root of most people’s dislike for the little green pearls. I found this recipe at Smitten Kitchen whose flavors seemed right up my alley, but then I added up the cooking times. What I read had suggested that steaming a brussels sprout for 7 minutes would be about right, but any more than that would release the bitter taste. This recipe’s brussels cooking time was closer to 40 minutes, and that had me a little worried.

In the end, my love for balsamic vinegar and bacon won out, and I gave this recipe a shot.

Balsamic Braised Brussels with French Lardons
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6 as a side

Ingredients

1  cups fresh bread crumbs (I crunched up four stale pieces of bread, without the crusts)
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus an extra tablespoon or two for drizzling over the bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pounds medium-sized brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
Salt and pepper
4 ounces French Lardon in small dice (about 1 cup, and you could easily substitute bacon, or pancetta)
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups veal stock, rich chicken or vegetable broth, more if needed

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, crumble stale bread into crumbs which are as small as possible. Mix bread crumbs and thyme with a drizzle of olive oil, and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Heat butter and remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foamy. Add brussels sprouts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing frequently, until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add diced lardons, and sauté until sprouts are well browned and softened slightly, and pancetta is crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Reduce heat, add shallots and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes.

3. Increase heat to high, add balsamic vinegar and stock, and cook, tossing frequently, until sprouts are glazed and tender, about 20 minutes; add more stock if needed. Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and top with breadcrumbs.

Balsamic brussels sprouts

Waker and I disagreed about how we felt about this dish in the end. He came home an hour after I had made dinner and so the brussels sprouts had gotten cold and the bread crumbs were less crisp. He said he loved the flavors of the “goodies” (the shallots, bread crumbs and lardons), but that he “didn’t love it.”

I maintain if he had taken a minute to reheat it instead of eating it cold, it would have been much better. When I ate it, fresh off the stove it was delicious. I could barely keep myself from eating it all before I took its picture. I loved that they still had a little bit of a bite, and I love the sweetness that they took on from the balsamic reduction.

All said and done, I really enjoyed it, and I think Walker would have enjoyed it if he’d eaten it properly.

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