The Great Brussels Sprouts Experiment: The Results

You’re all wondering how the Great Brussels Sprouts Experiment turned out. Aren’t you?

Sigh. Well. Well, it wasn’t a total bust. It just didn’t…turn out really great.

I think the two main culprits were the time of day and my miscalculation for how much time it was going to take. You see, I had this grand vision that I was going to whip up this nice tasty Brussels sprouts dish for dinner, and my husband was going to undergo a Huge Change of Heart about this particular veggie once he tasted it. We would both nod in utter agreement that we would absolutely have to include this dish on our Thanksgiving table next week.

But I didn’t stop to think that perhaps trying it out for the first at 5 p.m. on a Monday night, when my four-year-old was hungry and begging nearly non-stop for Toy Story III-themed macaroni and cheese, was not such a great idea.

Well, folks, I’m here to tell you now. Trying out a new dish at 5 p.m. on a Monday night when your four-year-old is begging for dinner is not such a great idea.

It meant that I was going into this whole project already a little distracted. And that led to my miscalculations about how long everything was going to take. I had no idea that it was going to take so long to peel and halve two pounds of sprouts. Nor that it would take me so long to peel and slice three shallots. Oh yes, side note about the shallots: as a type of onion (see how much I’ve learned in such a short time!), they of course behave like onions. Which means that they made me cry. A lot. I dispatched my elder son to find me a Kleenex, which he did, but this little caper turned out to be a two-Kleenex affair. Every time I thought that my eyes were going to stop stinging so I could see to use the knife again, they’d swell right back up another time. Crying and cleaning up after the crying, of course, took more time.

And that meant that I got distracted from the bacon I was frying, and it started to burn. So I just tried to fish out the burned parts and keep the rest, but that didn’t turn out so well. Optimistically, I tried sauteeing the shallots in there anyway, but you can imagine that this is not exactly what the good folks at Cooking Light probably envisioned when they wrote the recipe. It was like an “I Love Lucy” episode in there.

So I went on to the next step anyway, fearlessly. Stupidly. I dumped the Brussels sprouts that I had managed to peel and halve into the pan. It was not a full two pounds. It was more like almost one pound. I just ran out of time. And my kitchen smelled a little smokey. The baby was in his exersaucer across the kitchen looking at me with a very furrowed brow, as if even he knew that something was Not Quite Right. I poured a cup of water, as instructed, into the pan, covered the whole mess with aluminum foil and let it cook. I then took this time to deal with the boiling water for the mac’n’cheese.

When the timer went off a few minutes later, I grabbed an oven mitt and lifted the foil off the pan. Whooosh! A gust of hot steamy air knocked me backwards. A gust of hot steamy air scented with burning shallots and Brussels sprouts. The water had all cooked off, and the sprouts on the bottom were starting to blacken. Argh. After all this effort! I muttered crossly and then stood there, undecided. What now? There was a goopy mess of blackened sludge at the bottom of the pan, but some of the sprouts on top looked okay. Could I save them?

I decided, “Ah, what the hell.” I scooped as many unblackened sprouts as possible into a casserole dish and dusted them with salt and pepper. Then I poured in a handful of panko bread crumbs (love those), and stirred the whole mess up. I stuck them under the broiler for three minutes, checked them again, and then broiled them again for another two minutes. During the broiling time, I employed some rather unorthodox methods of dealing with the scary mess. I poured some water in there, dodged the second billowing wave, and then fished all the solid matter out and dropped it into a garbage bag, which I promptly took outside. Then I soaked the rest of it in the sink (overnight).

I, er, had to keep the door open, despite the cold night air–or rather, because of the cold night air–to reduce the stench of burned fat and vegetables in the air. My elder son wanted to know why I had the door open when it was dark and cold outside. I distracted him with neon orange pasta and told him to drink his milk.

Now, after all that effort, you can bet your life I was going to at least attempt to eat these sprouts. I worked so hard on them, after all. I wasn’t going to let them beat me! So I sat down at the kitchen table and tentatively tasted one of the sprouts in my small bowl (remember, there wasn’t much left after the burning part).

And you know what? It wasn’t half bad. It wasn’t knock-you-down good, but it wasn’t bad, either. There was plenty of room for improvement, sure, but given what you might expect to have resulted, I was actually pleasantly surprised.

This is why I’m glad that I did the dress rehearsal, though. Can you imagine this whole shebang going down while we were also trying to roast a turkey and cook all the side dishes and pies? Shudder. No, it’s much better this way. Plus, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the smell of burning cruciferous vegetables will be gone. It will be gone, right?

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About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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