Roasting Brussels’ Sprouts for the Thanksgiving Table

Trimmed and sliced Brussels’ Sprouts ready for roasting.

Generally, I don’t get too wound up about Thanksgiving Dinner because I tend to take the traditional menu pretty seriously, and the most complicated thing about that is unmolding the jellied cranberry sauce. Otherwise, despite all the hectic literature and the promise of turkey help lines for the hysterical, roasting a turkey is really straightforward. I like to baste it a lot. Mashing potatoes is no big whoop, either; boil, add milk, butter, and bash the daylights out of it. I love butternut squash along side. Again, boil, add a little brown sugar, butter, smash them up.

I feel no compulsion to have a salad, but like to put pickles, celery, and olives on the relish tray, and call it done. I didn’t grow up with green bean casserole with French fried onions on top, so that isn’t an issue. I like to make my own cranberry sauce, and sometimes put horseradish in it. Stuffing is easy because there are several really good versions of prepared herbed and seasoned crumbs ready for water or broth, butter, and any onion or celery enhancement one might hanker for.

I think creamed onions are terrific, especially if they have a little curry in them. They are no big deal either. Boil, slip them out of their skins, add some butter, a touch of flour, and cream or evaporated milk, curry powder to taste. Even the usual apple and pumpkin pies are among the simplest to make, especially if you use canned pumpkin. The only hard thing, in my opinion, about Thanksgiving dessert is making pie crust, but there are plenty of you out there who can make them in your sleep and others are perfectly happy with ready-made crusts.

So if you really like to have a green vegetable with your meal, even on Thanksgiving, what better one than seasonally-ready Brussels’ sprouts. I can hear some people moaning, “Why ruin a perfectly good dinner by serving those stinky things?” I bet this isn’t the first time I have said so, but you do know that if you let them sit out through good cold, below freezing, weather they sweeten right up. Mine from the garden are absolutely perfect right now.

The most mature of my Brussels’ Sprouts straight off the plant.

Once you take the turkey out of the oven, you can jack the temperature up to 425degrees, and stick a pan of sprouts in, and while you make gravy (you do make gravy, right?), mash the potatoes and all that, the sprouts can roast. I saw several good ideas for working with Brussels’ sprouts including adding bacon, or garlic, or dribbling balsamic vinegar on them. All that sounds very good. The directions below are for a simple olive oil, salt and pepper version. If you do bacon, I would cook it ahead and add it at the last minute or even add it after you dish the sprouts in a serving bowl. If you add garlic, peel the cloves and sprinkle them among the sprouts before roasting. If you want to add vinegar, balsamic or any other, treat it like you were making salad, and just sprinkle a little on.

Roasted Brussels’ Sprouts

4 to 5 spouts per person (or more or fewer, to taste)

Olive oil

Garlic or onion (optional)

Bacon (optional)

Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Prepare the sprouts by removing the rough outer leaves, and slicing them in half. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the sprouts in bowl with peeled garlic and coarsely chopped onion, if desired, while dribbling barely enough olive oil to coat them lightly. Put into a baking pan, and roast in the oven for about twenty minutes, tossing them once half way through. They are ready when they are just tender and are golden brown on the outside. Enhance if you wish with cooked bacon and/or balsamic vinegar just before serving.

Makes a variable number of servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.