How I love Brussels sprouts! I had a side of Brussels sprouts leaves for the first time at Perilla, Harold Dieterle’s restaurant in New York City, and they were so delicious; I would have been happy with a big bowl of them for dinner.
I have only bought Brussels sprouts in a package or a container but last week at my farmers market, Brussels sprouts were being sold attached to the branch on which they grow (see above).
It seemed a terrible waste not to try to cook the stem. Couldn’t I just cut off the tough outer layer like you would for broccoli stems? So I tried it. I have never heard of anyone cooking Brussels sprout stems – though I’m sure I’m not the first – and now I know why.
First, I needed to cut the long stem horizontally to make it easier to work with. But doing so is like trying to hack through an oak tree trunk with a dull saw blade. Even with my sharpened chef’s knife, I could only cut about half way; then I just snapped the stem in half. I have a blister on the bottom of my pointer finger for my efforts.
Then cutting through the thick outer layer is a challenge. Working with one piece of the stem, I cut off the knobby parts first – the places where the Brussels sprouts were attached – before attacking the outer layer. I sawed into the stem slightly, pausing to squint my eyes and grit my teeth, and then pushed hard, praying that the knife didn’t slip causing me to slice through my finger instead of the stem. I repeated this step several times until I had sliced off the outer layer on all sides (I was not injured).
This was a lot of work – to give you an idea, I always wear at least one long-sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt because my apartment is freezing; cutting the Brussels sprouts, I wore only a T-shirt – and I ended up with two short Brussels sprouts stem stubs (I threw the second half of the stem away).
So I sliced up these two short stubs, roughage that looks just like broccoli stems to me, poured some oil in a pan, dropped in the stems, and then called to Kenny to do a Google search to make sure the stems aren’t poisonous (my guess would be no, but we weren’t able to confirm this).
After the stems heated through, I nibbled on one. It tasted like a broccoli stem but because I hadn’t removed all of the thick outer layer, they had an unpleasant texture, like chewing on straw. I threw them away.
But the Brussels sprouts, which I roasted, were delicious.
To prepare Brussels sprouts, pull them off of the stem, remove yellow outer leaves (or any leaves that look brown, wrinkled, or otherwise unappetizing), and cut off the short stem that is still attached.
Toss with oil (I use a tablespoon), salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until browned. If you’d like a more exact directions, use this Brussels sprouts recipe from Ina Garten.
Also, check out this great Brussels sprouts post on the New York Times Bitten blog by Emily Weinstein, who says she can never get Brussels sprouts quite right – they’re always too oily or too dry or not seasoned the right way – but she devours them anyway. I understand exactly.