Hey sugar, sugar.


Photography by Matt Hocking

Ah, the lowly Brussels sprout. Until about 10 years ago it was reviled, relegated to the realm of cabbage relatives that had been boiled to remove any reminder of the crisp, sweet, fresh flavor it offered at harvest. They were aged on the grocery store shelf while sharp, mustardy notes developed until someone who clearly hated children brought them home, cooked them until mushy and grey and forced said children to eat them in order to earn their dessert. Enter caramelization.

Caramelization, also known as the Maillard effect, refers to ingredients browning as they cook. That browning represents the development of natural sugars in the ingredients which makes them richer and sweeter. I imagine for Brussels sprouts being caramelized is equivalent to the moment in The Wiz when costumes are peeled back revealing fresh, smiling faces who begin singing “Brand New Day.”

This basic preparation has led to so many magic new ways to serve these small cabbages. The dill in this mayonnaise adds earthiness, fat and just the right bite to these sweet, roasted treats. The sweet and sour fish sauce takes sprouts in the direction of their many relatives served in south-east Asia from Bok Choy to Totsoi. Enjoy. They are always a bit of a revelation. For sprouts it truly is a brand new day.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved.
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  • Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 F.
  • In a medium bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pull sheet pan from pre-heated oven and arrange Brussels sprouts in a single layer. Return to oven and cook, stirring once, until browned and crisp tender, about 20-25 minutes. Serve with one of the sauces below.

Dill mayonnaise

Dill mayonnaise for caramelized Brussels sprouts
Photography by Matt Hocking

You can skip making the mayonnaise from scratch and just fold dill into prepared mayonnaise.

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp prepared or dry mustard
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs chopped dill

Directions:

  • Whisk egg yolk for 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and mustard and whisk to combine. While whisking drizzle in oil a few drops at a time until it begins to thicken. Drizzle in remaining oil, while whisking, to finish mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and additional lemon juice as needed.
  • Fold dill into 1/4 cup mayonnaise reserving the rest for another use.

Sweet and sour fish sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs palm or brown sugar

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over med-high heat to reduce to about 1/4 cup. Season to taste with salt as desired.

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