I hyperbolize now and then. I just get kind of excited about things, you know. And this results in my mind sorting through its shelves of adjectives and quickly reaching for the binder labeled, ‘superlative’ and then spilling the contents everywhere.
“Amazing!” “Perfect!” “Even more perfect!” “Absurdly and/or uncontrollably great/fabulous/wondrous/awesome/stupendous” “The most mind-boggling, off the hook, and all together unbelievable paragon of X ever to have graced the face of the Earth…” That kind of thing.
So I was thinking of trying to use understatement for effect, for a change. Go all Garrison Keillor and say, “oh ya, these were pretty good Brussels sprouts.” But, I couldn’t. Because they weren’t.
They were really crazy good Brussels sprouts. So I’m going to go ahead and call them that.
Both Joel and I take great delight in Brussels sprouts. When faced with a platter, I know I am likely to dive in, greedily shoveling disproportionately large scoops of them onto my plate and barely resisting the urge to simply grab the platter to my chest and make off with it to some remote corner where I can consume the spoils of my conquest without sharing.
Joel gets a look in his eyes that makes me think that he just may be feeling the same thing. I’m surprised we haven’t gotten into any fights about who gets the last Brussel sprout yet. I’ll admit, I’ve pouted about it before.
Unless the Brussels sprouts are boiled or steamed. Yuck. Don’t do that to your Brussels sprouts, ok? They don’t deserve it. Not when you can sautee them until they are sweet and tender and a dark, golden crust forms on the outside. I’m addicted to sprouts that have been held against the fire, so to speak, so long that they are nearly charred, with a sprinkling of vinegar for acidity and a generous amount of salt to bring out all the other flavors. And occasionally some bacon.
I thought I was never going to need a change of method. Until I discovered the unexpectedly delicious alchemy of Brussels sprouts and molasses.
I never would have thought of this myself. Still when I hear it, it sounds somewhat counterintuitive to me. I got the idea from a friend. This friend of mine, who is an extraordinarily good cook, mentioned to me that a friend of hers – who she says is an extraordinarily good cook, which probably means it will turn out to be Thomas Keller or something – served her Brussels sprouts sauteed with garlic and a hit of molasses and that it was delicious.
I’ll admit, I had a moment of dubiousness. A pretty long moment, in fact. In my brain the combination didn’t work. But, I decided hey-ho for giving something new a try, especially when recommended by joint extraordinarily good cooks, and I went for it.
Wow. Allow me to repeat, wow.
The Brussels sprouts, caramelized, salty and almost crisped on the outside combined with the aromatic warmth of garlic, snuggle into to the molasses like a little child cuddling his security blanket. The sweetness and bitterness of the molasses echos those characteristics in the Brussels sprouts, but in a rich mellifluous baritone. One you would want to sing you to sleep while sitting under a willow tree by a lazy river. The flavors are powerful, but they balance one another beautifully.
My Thanksgiving table will have a new side dish this year. And once again I feel like I may never need a new way of preparing Brussels sprouts. I think I could be content with this one for life. Then again, it appears that it pays to stay open.
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Molasses (Serves 6)
- 1 ½ lbs. Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbs. molasses
- In a very large sautee pan, heat the butter and the olive oil over medium-high until the butter is melted and bubbling. Put the Brussels sprouts into the pan cut sides down. Leave them to cook without stirring them around for several minutes (3 or so), until the cut sides of the sprouts have developed a brown crust. Then flip them all.
- Sprinkle with salt, add the garlic, and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.
- Next add a little splash of water (about 1 Tbs.) and the molasses. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently to get the Brussels sprouts coated with the molasses as it thickens. Cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender, several more minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve!