I have a problem. I really like brussels sprouts. I happily eat them, and them alone, for dinner. I like them a multitude of ways, finely shredded and sauteed, braised with bacon, roasted in the oven, even just plain boiled (!). In the winter I eat them so often it's become a household joke. I get excited when I see them in the markets for the first time in the fall, and sad when they disappear in the spring (no matter how much I love brussels sprouts, I'm an avowed seasonal eater).
Poor sprouts, they're so maligned. My friend hates them because her mother always referred to them as "little brains." Bitter when not properly handled and terribly mushy when overcooked, it's easy to go wrong with brussels sprouts. But when right, they are oh-so-good. The best brussels sprouts I've ever had are the teeny-tiny baby ones they sell at Citarella in New York, each one the size of a coin, you can roast them whole and they are almost sweetly vegetal.
That taught me a good lesson about brussels sprouts, pick out the small ones and halve or quarter the larger ones so that they cook quickly without being bitter or over-cooked. My favorite way to cook brussels is to pan roast them: start on the stove-top and then finish them in the oven. These will be on our Thanksgiving table and if they aren't on yours, you've got a long season left to find a time for them.
Pan-Roasted Brussel Sprouts
By all means, saute a little bacon along with the shallot if you want to gild the lily. The brussels sprouts should be just tender in their centers when done (check with a knife tip), and I actually like it when some of the outer edges are crispy deep-brown-black crunchy savory perfection (the above picture, while they were delicious, weren't quite brown enough for my taste).
1 shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon (a sprinkling) of sugar
a medium bag of brussels sprouts, larger ones halved or quartered
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat a splash of olive oil. Add the shallot and cook until soft and translucent. Add the brussels sprouts and saute until the begin to brown on the edges - golden brown is good, but not completely done. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, scraping up any brown bits, and sprinkle the sugar over, stirring so it melts. Season with salt
2. Transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking. Check after 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan. Continue roasting, stirring every five minutes, until the brussels sprouts are cooked through and the edges are well browned (some of the stray leaves may blacken, that's totally fine). Check for seasoning, serve.