When brussels sprouts first come into season, I could eat them almost daily, tossed with nothing more than olive oil, salt and pepper and pan-fried, and be happy for weeks.
But when you have guests over, perhaps you want to jazz things up a little. There are so many satisfying choices where these crucifers are concerned – bacon, pecans, parmesan, lemon, balsamic vinegar – and you play mix and match with these in your head, and settle on a few.
I love pan-roasting brussels sprouts because it is the least fussy method of preparation, and doing so caramelizes the leaves, which really makes this vegetable shine. And I discovered, totally by accident, that this is a case where crowding the pan is good. What happens is that because they are so packed together, they steam a little while browning and roasting, so they’re both tender in the middle and golden crisp at the edge, which is exactly what you want.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH TOASTED BREADCRUMBS, PARMESAN AND LEMON ZEST
Serves 4 as a small side
1 pound brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs (instructions below)
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon butter
To make breadcrumbs: Use the remains of an old baguette. Chop or break into pieces with a sharp knife. Process in the food processor until you have the texture of breadcrumb you desire. To toast them you can either use a toaster oven at 300 degrees until golden brown (this should only take a few minutes), or brown them in a pan. If using a pan, stir frequently so that they don’t burn.
Rinse brussels sprouts. Remove stems and slice each brussels sprout in half lengthwise.
Warm a skillet over a medium flame. Melt the butter for a minute or two in the pan. When everything is nice and hot, add the brussels sprouts. Stir to coat them evenly with butter, then turn all of them so that the cut side is facing down. You will want to cook them for about twenty minutes, and as long as your heat is not too high, you will only need to stir them about three times. When you do stir them, turn down any that are facing up after stirring.
While the brussels sprouts are browning, mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper with a fork. Add the lemon zest last – it may clump a little, so break it up with the fork if necessary.
When the brussels sprouts are cooked – tender, with a darker shade of green and nicely caramelized edges – transfer them to a glass bowl. Toss them in the breadcrumb mixture and stir to coat.