I nominate brussels sprouts and the vegetable that our parents most egregiously ruined for us (sorry, Kathy). Steamed, overcooked, stinky fart-balls are what were served in my childhood. My initial refusal to eat them, eventual acquiescence, and the resultant up-chucking at/ onto the dining room table is a favorite story of my family’s.
I avoided them for decades after that.
When I started learning to cook in my late 20’s, I found myself revisiting ingredients that I had previously written off, either because of traumatic experiences like the one outlined above, or just general heebie-jeebies (I was known to proclaim that “I don’t eat fungus” when refusing to eat a dish with mushrooms… What a silly thing to say.) After learning the basics of roasting veggies, such as broccoli and green beans, I eventually worked my way back to the feared mini-cabbage. The result was delightfully surprising.
Now, I know, roasted veggies are not particularly ground breaking, and the pairing of brussels and bacon is well established, but I wanted to go all-out for this recipe and add some special ingredients.
The balsamic glaze can be store bought, or homemade. All I had on hand was balsamic vinegar, but not to worry. The entire process of reducing it to a glaze went about as follows: Put some balsamic vinegar into a pan on medium low heat, reduce until syrupy. That simple. If you over-reduce and wind up with something that won’t even pour out of a pan, just add a little bit more vinegar, stir it in, and you should be just fine.
Candied pecans are something that I actually made a quick instagram reel about. The video contains the process and ingredient amounts. Of course, you’re also free to use some that you can get ready-made at the grocery store.
Get as fancy as you want with the feta cheese, or, of course, substitute for whatever else you would like. My friend Mary suggested bleu cheese, but to that I say:
As far as seasoning and spices are concerned, I opted for the traditional S&P. Cayenne would probably be a fine addition, but since we have so many other flavors working together on this dish, I wanted to keep this aspect simple.
The real key to this dish, though, is high heat, plenty of oil, and creating as much metal-to surface area contact as you can. The sprouts are essentially frying on the sheet pan, and, for the most part, whatever part is touching the pan is going to get nice, dark, and crispy.
Balsamic Bacon Brussels Sprouts with Feta and Candied Pecans
- 2 lb Whole brussels sprouts
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
- 3 oz Bacon, cut into ~3/4 inch wide pieces (About 4 strips)
- 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar Optionally, substitute with 2 tbsp balsamic glaze
- 3 tbsp Candied pecans
- 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Wash the brussels sprouts, then pat dry. Cut them in half top to bottom. For larger sprouts cut into thirds. Add to a large bowl
- Season the sprouts with salt and pepper, then add olive oil and mix. Ensure all sprouts are coated with oil. Pour out onto rimmed baking sheet and position all of the brussels sprouts so that the cut side is facing down.
- Distribute the individual bacon strips evenly throughout the tray.
- Bake in preheated oven until the bacon is cooked through and the brussels sprouts are seared on the cut side. About 20 minutes.
- While sprouts are in the oven, pour balsamic vinegar into a small pan and reduce by half. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Once sprouts and bacon are out of the oven, place in serving dish. Sprinkle candied pecans, feta, and balsamic on top, and serve immediately.