This brussel sprout dish is very possibly, the best vegetable side dish you will ever make.
Luxuriously coated in salty butter and rich bacon fat, with crisps of streaky bacon scattered throughout, all cut through by the zing of balsamic vinegar. These tiny little cabbages will never again be the bane of your dining table.
There really isn’t much to this dish. Consisting of only five main ingredients, four of them starting with the letter B. You won’t even have to refer to the recipe to remember what magical ingredients goes into the dish! These salty-sweet brussel sprouts are the easiest thing to whip up if you’re caught short on what to serve alongside your roast chicken and mash. Plus, they cover the entire flavour spectrum, making for a Thanksgiving and Christmas-dinner worthy vegetable side with amazing depth of flavour like none other.
But fret not if you’re one of those people who find these little vegetables disgustingly bitter, you’re not just a picky eater! A chemical compound in brussel sprouts just so happens to be more prominent and unpalatable to a certain percentage of the population. In short, it’s all in your genes! The bitterness of these sprouts however, can be reduced via multiple ways. We go through these tips in the recipe so read on! Or, check out our article on brussel sprouts here!
Balsamic Bacon Brussel Sprouts
- 2 cups of brussel sprouts
- 5 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tbsp honey
Rinse and slice brussel sprouts in half.
Marinate in honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Fry the bacon and set aside.
Place the sprouts core-side down on the pan and caramelize on medium-high heat.
Add ⅓ cup of water and cook till tender. Add butter.
Return the bacon back to the pan.
STEP ONE – PREP THE BRUSSEL SPROUTS
When selecting your produce, pick buds that are tight and compact. The color should also appear bright green and not a limpid yellow. Rinse them and slice in half lengthwise. Most of the bitter compounds are concentrated in the middle where the thick stalks are, by cutting them this way and caramelizing the core, the bitterness can be cooked off as well as cooking the sprouts more efficiently and thoroughly.
Slice off the thick ends of the brussel sprouts, but not too much. A few of the outer leaves will inevitably fall off, simply keep these aside and add them in to cook later towards the end of the frying stage.
STEP TWO – MARINATE THE SPROUTS
Add the honey, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the brussel sprouts at this stage. They don’t have to be marinated for long, so only do this step right before frying the bacon. The honey goes a long way in helping to caramelize the brussel sprouts. Brown or white sugar can be used in its stead if you don’t have honey, but be cautious as the sweetness of sugar is hugely different from the milder sweetness of honey. Chop the bacon into small pieces.
STEP THREE – FRY THE BACON
In a cold, non-oiled pan, (like this amazing non-stick one!) place the bacon on top and turn up to medium-high heat. Allow the fat to render and the bacon to crisp up slightly. Here, you can fry according to your preference. If you like it charred and crisp to the middle, fry till you reach that stage. Set aside.
Keep in mind that it’s better to err on the side of caution and fry till just before your ideal doneness as the residual heat will not only continue to cook the bacon slightly but because we will be adding the bacon back into the pan towards the end. (Have a go at smoking your own bacon with this smoker!)
STEP FOUR – CARAMELIZE THE BRUSSEL SPROUTS
Reserve the residual bacon fat in the pan. On medium-high heat, place the brussel sprouts core-side down onto the pan. Let the sprouts sear for 4-6 minutes, checking after the 4 minute mark to ensure it doesn’t burn. Once satisfied, flip the sprouts over and let the other side cook through for 2-3 minutes. At this stage, the outer leaves that may have fallen during prep can be added back in. Fret not if you’ve burned the sprouts slightly during the caramelization stage as the water we’ll be adding later will mellow it out slightly.
STEP FIVE – COOK THE SPROUTS THOROUGHLY AND ADD BUTTER
Start by adding in ⅓ cup of hot water into the pan to cook the sprouts thoroughly. If you prefer it softer, continue adding water bit by bit. Once all the water has evaporated and the sprouts are soft to your liking, add in pats of the salty butter and season with salt and black pepper. Remember! The butter and bacon is already salty so refrain from heavily salting the dish before tasting.
STEP SIX – RETURN THE BACON BACK TO THE PAN
Maintaining the same medium-high heat, return all the bacon back into the pan. Toss together for not more than a minute to meld the flavors of all that buttery goodness together.
STEP SEVEN – DISH OUT AND ENJOY!
This dish is equally good hot or cold. Garnish with some bright colors like deseeded red chili , lemon zest curls or pomegranate seeds.
For extra oomph (and time), shallots and garlic can be added to bring the dish up a notch. Simply dice them up and saute in the bacon fat before searing the brussel sprouts. To add some extra kick, dice some red chili or add chili flakes towards the end!
The sprouts can be replaced with any other vegetable which you wouldn’t normally eat as is. It’s the perfect way to prompt children into eating broccoli or as a method of taking carrots to the next level. Although, the balsamic vinegar might have to be omitted or reduced to suit the fussy taste buds of most children.
Is there a certain vegetable you can’t stand? Try this recipe out on it and let us know how it went!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.