I haven’t always cared for Brussels sprouts. In fact, I am somewhat ashamed to say, the entire cruciferous vegetable family is fairly low on my list of likes. I will, however, make an enthusiastic exception for these maple glazed pan seared Brussels sprouts with bacon. I mean, with a name like that how could I not?
Growing up, my mom loved making herself a big plate of lightly steamed sprouts that she would then drizzle with a generous amount of melted butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper. This was a special meal for her to enjoy in bed while she read a copy of House Beautiful magazine and I have her to thank for my love of eating weird things like an entire head of iceberg lettuce in bed with something good to read and a cup of tea. I’ll admit that my opinion of Brussels sprouts has shifted towards semi-favourable over the last decade and I believe I have only the Maillard reaction and this recipe for sweet and peppery pan seared and maple glazed Brussels sprouts with bacon to thank. Besides, what’s better than the addition of maple syrup and bacon to pretty much anything?
Tips for the best maple glazed Brussels sprouts
- Use the biggest cast iron pan you have: I have a 12″ cast iron pan that weighs about 500 pounds (I live in constant fear that one day I’ll clumsily drop it onto my foot) and I use it almost every single day. It’s the perfect size for large dinner parties and family get-togethers; once I’m done washing it with warm water and a soft cloth I store it in the oven to save precious counter and cupboard space along with my baking sheets and Silpat collection.
- Keep a steady temperature. Cast iron pans are fantastic at maintaining a steady temperature but it’s important to know that they also cling to that heat long after they’ve been removed from the heat. For this reason, I like to cook these maple bacon Brussels sprouts at just a smidge over medium heat (this is also helps to ensure the sprouts are completely cooked through).
- Trim your Brussels sprouts with care. Trimming Brussels sprouts is hardly an exciting job but nonetheless it’s one that needs doing. I claim this time as my own and listen to audiobooks or music (of course) and consider careful trimming of any kind of vegetable an exercise in mindfulness.
- Give the bacon a head start. Whether you use thick cut bacon or pancetta, it’s important to give it a head start in a hot pan to a) render more of its tasty, tasty fat and b) get it nice and crispy. If using regular bacon I suggest cutting it with kitchen shears directly into the hot pan.
- Use real maple syrup: I have a childhood weakness for Eggo waffles with corn syrup and butter so I understand the appeal of non-maple syrups but for these maple bacon Brussels sprouts you really want that maple flavour to shine through.
Maple Glazed Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Enough for 4-6 servings as a side dish
2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, cut in half with the bottoms trimmed (remove any yellow or slimy outer leaves)
4-5 slices of extra thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces (or the rough equivalent of Italian pancetta)
3 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Large cast iron skillet
Wooden or silicon cooking spoon or spatula
- Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat for several minutes before adding the cut up bacon. If your cast iron pan isn’t 100 percent seasoned you can drizzle a small amount of neutral oil into the pan before the bacon is added to keep it from sticking.
- Cook the bacon for 5 minutes or until it’s just starting to crisp. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the bacon fat. Lower the heat to medium.
- Mix together the oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the Brussels sprouts and bacon. Stir every couple of minutes but not too often, you want that lovely browning to start happening and this requires patience.
- Once the Brussels sprouts are beginning to brown in spots and the oil and maple syrup mixture has simmered down to a thick glaze they’re done. You can serve these maple bacon Brussels sprouts straight from the pan or transfer them to a serving plate (just be sure to place the pan on a sturdy trivet to avoid burning a whole in your tablecloth, not that I would know anything about that).
What I’m listening to
Do you ever listen to music so powerfully nostalgic it feels like your heart is breaking? Like you’ve left childhood and can never go back? I’m sure there’s a beautiful Scandinavian word that describes this exact phenomenon, but for now I’ll have to describe it as a deep yearning for things past. As someone who was born in Stratford, Ontario (where Loreena McKennitt lives and makes music) her music has always been an integral part of my life during the winter months. Her album To Drive The Cold Winter Away is stunning and mysterious. It makes me think of snow and candlelight and Waldorf Advent calendars and eating large amounts of winter clementines. Are you looking for something to listen to that’s borderline Christmas but not quite? If so, give this album a try. It’s beautiful, it will make you feel like a small child again, and it will warm your spirit through and through.
Loreena McKennitt – Snow