One of my favorite vegetables is Brussels sprouts, ever since I had them at Cucina Enoteca I fell in love with eating them burnt! Yes, you heard (read) that correctly, I love burnt brussels sprouts. In the past I would always braise my brussels sprouts, which I still like, but having them burnt adds a whole new level of flavor and texture which braising just doesn’t offer. The best way I can describe a burnt brussels sprout is you get the same great taste as a braised brussels sprout, but you also get an extra nutty taste from the caramelized outer layer. You also get a mixture of texture from the crispy outer leaves and the soft center reminds me of a perfectly cooked artichoke heart. All I can say is, I can eat buckets of this stuff. Making burnt brussels sprouts is actually super simple. All you need are brussels sprouts, a heavy frying pan (cast iron ideally), cooking oil and kosher salt. I like to eat them with some spicy sauce so if you want to make that then you will also need: 2 red bell peppers, 2 jalapenos, 1 yellow onion, 1 Anaheim chili, 2 garlic cloves (peeled), olive oil, honey and some kosher salt. Now let me be up front about this recipe, the brussels sprouts are super easy, the sauce is the one that takes more work. Read the entire post and I will give you an easy way to skip the sauce if you don’t want to spend the extra time and energy (but I recommend you try the sauce). To start, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. While your oven preheats take all of the vegetables for your sauce and place them on a roasting pan and leave them in the oven until they are nicely roasted. Take your brussels sprouts, split them in half and heat up your heavy duty frying pan over high heat. Add enough cooking oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan, then place all of your brussels sprouts flat side down, season with salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the flat side of the brussels sprout is crispy brown (see picture below). Make sure all of your brussel sprouts continue to lay flat side down, the image below is just to show you what the bottom should look like.
Place the entire pan into the 450 degree F oven and let cook for 20-30 minutes. By this time you will take out the roasted vegetables that you will use for the sauce. Just make sure the roasted vegetables have nice dark brown or even black spots on them (mainly the peppers). If they don’t then leave them in the oven until they do. If that is the case, take your brussels sprouts off the stove and let them sit until the roasted vegetables are done. Once the roasted vegetables are out of the oven place the brussels sprout frying pan into the oven. You will know they are done when the outside of the brussels sprout looks burnt (roughly 20-30 minutes). Some people might want them to just be slightly brown whereas others will want them dark brown, just make sure you pull them out before they actually burn (aka, turn black). Another way to tell they are done is you will smell a nice nutty aroma from the caramelized burnt brussels sprouts. While the brussels sprouts are in the oven turn your attention to the sauce (I wish I took pictures of the sauce making process but since I didn’t I will try to be very descriptive). Now that your peppers, onion, and garlic cloves are nicely roasted place them in a metal bowl and cover them with plastic wrap so the heat from the vegetables will generate steam. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes so the steam can soften up the pepper skins. After the roasted vegetables had enough time to steam, take them out and peal off the black outer burnt skin from the peppers. You should be left with a soft, semi-slippery pepper which you will want to toss into a blender along with the other roasted ingredients. For the roasted onion, only use the outer roasted layers, remove the center part that is not roasted. Cover the blender and turn it on, once the roasted vegetables turn into a smooth puree, drizzle in the olive oil until the sauce begins to take shape (roughly 1/4 cup of olive oil), add honey to taste (2-3 Tbsp should do the trick, but it depends on whether you want the sauce sweeter or spicy) and add salt to taste. By the time you are done with the sauce the brussels sprouts should be done. I like to serve my brussels sprouts with the sauce on the bottom of the dish so the brussels sprouts get to stay crunchy on the outside. Serve as a side dish or enjoy with other vegetables as a vegetarian friendly entree.
If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of making your own sauce, then you can always use Cholula hot sauce with a little honey. It doesn’t have as complex of a flavor but it still does the trick.