Yes, I know I am fond of hyperbole, and that the headline at the top of this blog is a bit over the top. But honestly, when something so tasty takes only two minutes to cook (and I am not kidding about that), I can’t help but enthuse.
Out of necessity, I had to deconstruct our garden Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner. Serving them whole or even halved or quartered wasn’t an option as they were so misshapen and riddled with holes. (They were all different sizes, too. Some were teeny tiny—witness the penny picture below—and some were like mini-cabbages(right), the most beautiful winter flowers I’ve seen.) Secretly I also worried that a bug might have survived all those frosts and still be alive inside. So I peeled the leaves off the sprouts, trimming the stem higher and higher as I went to loosen the leaves, and wound up with a pile of different-sized leaves in various shades of green and a handful of tiny interior nubbins the color of celery.
I’m lucky I had any sprouts at all as I was so annoyed about the bug damage a few weeks ago that I actually yanked up most of the Brussels sprouts stalks and fed them to the chickens (I had harvested what I could from them, I thought). But I sure am glad I saved a few, as I discovered that one thing is true—the flavor of a frost-kissed Brussels sprout is definitely sweeter and more intense than a summer sprout. (This isn’t just romantic gardener talk.) I brought them inside, along with the remaining rutabagas, in order to finally clear a bed I wanted to plant with winter rye. Wrapped loosely in towels and put in plastic bags, these veggies (especially the rutabagas) will keep in that (very cold) mudroom fridge for quite a while.
But about cooking those Brussels sprouts leaves—what a revelation. I heated a combination of half-butter and half-olive oil in a nonstick skillet over pretty decent heat (medium-high on my stove). Just enough fat to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. When the butter was bubbling, I tossed the leaves into the pan, sprinkled them with kosher salt, and quickly covered the pan (I love my glass lid!). I only stirred once or twice (not at all for the first minute and putting the lid back on each time), and in two minutes the leaves that had contact with the pan were all browned in spots and the rest were nicely steamed—still bright green, but wilted and softened. I quickly removed them from the pan and tossed them atop the mashed potatoes alongside our roast beef. (Though I made another batch this morning and just gobbled them up straight.) So delicious.
Certainly I’ve seen recipes for shredding or pulling apart sprout leaves and stir-frying them or quickly sautéing them, but I’ve never really done this exact thing—kind of a “brown-and-steam” method. I think the brief covering creates the perfect texture, and the combination of butter and decent heat provides that incredibly nutty flavor. (The salt is key in playing up that buttery, nutty thing.) And all in two minutes, maybe three if you had a bigger batch. I’d say my leaves fully covered the bottom of the skillet but weren’t more than two or three layers deep, so you can eyeball whatever amount of leaves you wind up with and choose an appropriate size skillet. You don’t need a recipe here, just a pile of Brussels sprouts—preferably plucked from the garden stalk!