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Article: Brussels Sprouts: Cooking sprouts

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ejanelli
San Francisco, CA

January 25, 2010
6:51 PM

Post #7495626

Mostly the cooking traditions for Brussels sprouts are responsible for the boarding-house smell. This is true for all cruciferous vegetables, but especially sprouts which I absolutely love. I never had them in my childhood because my mother, usually open to all sorts of food, hated them.

The basic issue is that nearly all crucifers which contain chemicals identified as glucosinolate compounds, release a gas during cooking that actually breaks down their chlorophyll as evidenced by the change in color from their endless and beautiful variations on green to some sort of sickly greenish gray when "improperly" cooked or overcooked. Brussels sprouts are especially affected. I put "improperly" in quotes because it's to my own standards, not necessarily yours. Here are my suggestions for cooking the super-nutritious and inherently delicious vegetables.

1. Careful with the lid!!! A tight-fitting lid traps the released gas and increases the concentration around the vegetable. It's okay to use a partial cover as long as the steam and gasses are released and do not build up. If you prefer steaming use a Chinese bamboo steamer and keep the water below at a vigorous boil so the steam comes through rapidly and the vegetable is cooking in fresh steam.

2. Try cooking means other than boiling or steaming - stir frying with minimal oil and minimal water is a great way. Using a lid if the sprouts are whole is okay as long as you follow the rule of always seeing a strong jet of steam escaping. Don't add a lot of water at one time. Keep a bottle or pitcher of water next to your cooking vessel and just add small amounts as needed to prevent scorching. Small sprouts can be cooked whole. If they're any larger than the tiniest ones cut an "X" in the bottom after trimming. Larger sprouts are best cut into sections - wedge them into four or six pieces. Another excellent way to cook them is in the oven, 375 degrees or so. Add a little olive oil and a modest amount of water or other liquid such as chicken broth. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit loosely over the veggies and cook them until just tender. Best to start by tossing them on top of the stove to warm, then into the oven. Don't crowd them - at most two layers deep so they cook evenly. Test by piercing. I prefer a narrow bamboo skewer or pick over any metal utensil for this because, for me, it transfers more accurate information. You want them just tender enough for the pick to penetrate, no more. Season them as you like, but best not to salt until they're cooked and ready to serve. My favorite recipe involves wilting some onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil - just softened, not browned - then adding the sprouts cut in wedges. Toss briefly to heat them up then into a baking dish with the parchment cover. Use olive oil and/or water judiciously as it seems needed. Give a stir or two during cooking if you think it's appropriate. They cook more quickly than you'd expect, depending on freshness, so check after 10 or 12 minutes to see how they're doing.

3. Just a thought on my very favorite way of cooking cabbage which is so delicious cooked right. Cut into wedges - 6 or 8 depending on appetites and size of the head, and choose a skillet or saute pan big enough for the wedges to fit in a single layer and tall enough that the wedges do not extend above the rim. Film it with olive oil. Arrange the cabbage wedges in the skillet and place on high heat. Immediately add water to about 1/4 inch depth. If you have a high-powered range you can add tap water (I use an induction range which is super fast). If your range is of standard heat output best to start with boiling water. Lace with a drizzle of olive oil and SURPRISE put a lid on. Keep the heat high so the steam escapes rapidly - I mean really shoots out between the pan and the lid. Depending on the age and denseness of the cabbage head it might cook in five minutes or even less, just to the point of being able to pierce with the bamboo skewer. When I plan to cook it this way I try to choose a head that's not too dense, i.e. it's light for its size. Ideally there should be no water left in the pan, but add water, small amounts at a time, if needed to keep from scorching. You want it never to go dry. You will serve cabbage of the most gorgeous color and sweetness you can imagine.

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Other Article: Brussels Sprouts Threads you might be interested in:

SubjectThread StarterRepliesLast Post
Love 'em! KyWoods 36 Nov 10, 2012 4:12 AM
Good article, thank you! marcha 3 Nov 30, 2007 5:46 PM
Great pics! they look yummy grampapa 1 Dec 1, 2007 4:24 AM
The info I needed! dixcat 1 Jan 25, 2010 2:38 PM
Baby Frosted Brussels! NEILMUIR1 8 Jan 27, 2010 6:33 AM


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