Brussels sprouts don't get nearly enough love in this world. Still, someone must be eating them, because they show up faithfully all winter long in the markets. I find that often when a meal includes them, the wee cabbages are drearily overcooked and often stone cold by the time the plates are served. This is a tragedy, for a good Brussels sprout is a tasty treat that shouldn't be relagated to the "last bowl to be emptied" status that it seems to have in so many households.
In fact, if it were not for the firm tradition that insists on serving them for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, I wonder if they'd be available in anything but the specialty markets. A few years ago, I discovered the secret to foolproof sprouts: slice them in half and roast them with a little drizzle of chicken fat. That's it! I was making a baked chicken-one-pot supper, and was shy on the usual vegetables that I generally include. I had some sprouts though, so I wedged them in around the other veggies, shrugged, and figured they'd at least be fine for one night's dinner. How surprised I was, at how well they turned out! Everywhere the sprouts touched the glass of the baking dish, was a caramelized golden brown, and the small amount of fat rendered from the chicken legs I was baking gave them a tender succulence that could not be believed without sampling. A discreet scattering of kosher salt grains across the top of the dish meant that the Brussels sprouts were delicately seasoned, and the long oven-time meant that they stayed nice and hot on our dinner plates.
About halfway through dinner, we were lamenting at how few sprouts I had actually included in the pan. By the end of dinner, we were vowing to never again subject the noble sprout to boiling or steaming, if roasting was at all feasible.
It took a few tries to hit on the exact formula, but here it is in its glory:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 large glass/pyrex type baking dish, spritzed lightly with canola oil
Enough sprouts so that, when cut in half pole-to-pole, they cover the bottom of the dish in a single layer.
A final spritz with the canola oil over the rounded tops of the sprouts
A tablespoon or two of chicken fat, drizzled over the sprouts
A small pinch of kosher salt sprinkled over all
Bake uncovered in an oven set at 350 - 400 F, for 25 - 35 minutes (depending on your oven setting. Obviously, in hotter ovens cook for a shorter period of time). Finished sprouts should be fork-tender and showing a little brown on their cut-sides.
The beauty of the variable timing is that you can cook it along side another dish at whatever temperature is required.
You'll be fighting over the last sprout in no time.