It’s funny how one of the most universally despised vegetables also happens to be the one people get most excited about when they come for turkey dinner. Considering the stigma B. sprouts carry with them, an awful lot of people think they’re wonderful. I made Brussels sprouts with candied maple pecans tonight for our Canadian Thanksgiving, to much fanfare. People (including myself) stood around the stove and picked at the nuts and crispy bits, and were grateful (thankful?) to have them on the menu. Last year I made Brussels sprouts with bacon, but these may have been better – and more appropriate for any vegetarians who may be at your table.
If you can find tiny, tender Brussels sprouts, grab them; otherwise cut larger ones in half lengthwise (the stem helps keep halves intact) and try to put them cut-side-down into the hot pan – they get nice and crisply golden that way. You can candy the pecans and cook the sprouts in advance, then give them a quick turn in a hot pan to finish them off and warm them through while the turkey is resting. Add the nuts just before serving to keep them crunchy.
Brussels Sprouts with Maple Buttered Pecans
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2006.
1/2 cup pecan halves
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. pure maple or golden syrup
sea salt, to taste
2 lb. small Brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1-2 garlic cloves, finely squished
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until deep golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and quickly toss with 1 Tbsp. butter and syrup; it should coat the nuts and be partially absorbed. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for up to a day.
In a saucepan with an inch of simmering water, cook the Brussels sprouts until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes, drain and pat dry. If you want to do this ahead, store them in the fridge for up to a day.
When you’re ready to finish them, heat a drizzle of oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the sprouts for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally, until starting to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, then stir in the pecans, transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately. Serves 6-8.