Brussel sprouts.....ugh! I know many of you think that way about these little green beebees and all too often, reminding you of why you don't eat cabbage. So in order to "re-acclimate" your taste buds, we need to rid this veggie of that aftertaste.
We don't merely want to mask the bitterness with a ton of fat and bacon, or to put layers of seasonings to it. We want to rid it of bitterness.
Relatively new in the flora department, brussel sprouts have only been cultivated, as such, for consumption since the early 1500s, but mentioned in the country of popularity, Belgium, 300 years earlier. The bitter taste of each 'bud' has been a bane to palates since that time, cooks offering their own solutions to make them more palatable.
The predominant reason for eating brussel sprouts, too many, is the outrageously beneficial properties, especially in the antioxidant department.
To begin with, when using brussel sprouts, make sure they are small, rock-hard little orbs. This means they are young with less of the bitter taste to deal with.
But if it is the flavor you savor, minus that bitterness, there is a new way of subduing, or even eliminating, this off-taste. It is the acidic compound known as thiocyanates that are released that is the issue. Certainly boiling them in water releases these compounds, reducing the unpopular flavor. But it is still obviously there.
There IS an alternative to severely cutting the bitter taste, almost eliminating it, and you will see it first here, by The Yankee Chef.
The key is substituting one ill-tasting acidic element with a sweet tasting acid. I like to use apple juice first and foremost. It is one of the highest acidic fruits, believe it or not, with the perfect flavor to transform brussel sprouts. The ph level in apples ais generally 3.3, which is almost equal to orange juice.
To start, always cut them in half first and cut off any visible stem. This not only helps to leach out some thiocyanates but also helps the sprout to absorb the good acid, apple juice in this case. If you want to experiment, use orange or cranberry juice, tamarind or even the top acidic fruit of all, a star fruit. A good reference would be the higher the Vitamin C level, the higher the acidic level will be.
So back to the preparation. After you have cut your brussel sprouts in half, place them in a pot of apple juice and let them soak for at least 2 hours, then boil them in the same juice for only 2 minutes, just enough to barely warm them through. Drain well and use in any preparation you desire.
Now for a great recipe that is packed with flavor, without masking the the overall taste. I have yet to taste any bitterness every time I use the above method or the recipe below. I highly suggest you stay away from frozen brussel sprouts. Freezing completely destroys the texture, almost to the point where they are soft the moment you thaw them.
Brussel Sprouts Amaro a Dolce
Simply meaning 'bitter to sweet' in Italian, these sprouts are absoltely the perfect accompaniment to any turkey, pork or Prime Rib you will be having on the table this Holiday season. You may even get the kids to try them. A beautifully arranged taste of New England with Italian accents.
1(12-ounce)bag fresh brussel sprouts(about 2 cups)
2 cups 100% apple juice
1-2 strips bacon, diced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Large pinch each ground cloves and red pepper flakes
1/2 cup apple jelly*
Dash apple cider vinegar
Prepare brussel sprouts by cuting off any protruding stem and cut each head in half. Place in a large bowl with apple juice, using more if needed to completely cover. Soak at least 2 hours at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Transfer brussel sprouts and juice to a large saucepan and boil 2 minutes. Immediately drain, discarding liquid; set sprouts aside. Place bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until just done but not crisp. Remove from heat and discard fat. Add brussel sprouts; set aside. In a bowl, whisk together apple jelly, cloves, red pepper and vinegar. Pour into pan with brussel sprouts and toss to evenly coat. Transfer to an 8-inch pan and roast 40-50 minutes, or until browned on top. Half way through cooking, stir them well. If desired, place them under the broiler for a minute to brown even more. Remove from oven to serve immediately.
*Maple syrup is a nice substitute in this recipe as well