Much like cauliflower, I wasn’t a brussels sprouts fan until a couple years ago. It totally makes sense. They’re both cruciferous vegetables that I’d only really experienced in their frozen and butter- or cheese-sauced form — a preparation method that does them absolutely no favors (please bear with me as I repeat myself).
This recipe is inspired by the fantastic brussels sprouts served at a local San Jose restaurant, Naglee Park Garage. They’ve been featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, where I first learned about this gem of a place located a mere 6 miles from my apartment. Super quaint, it’s a perfect place to eat dinner al fresco on a warm summer evening (heck, I like it so much that I even celebrated my birthday here this past July¹).
But back to the sprouts. Roasting ‘em takes some of their bitter edge off, and adds a touch of sweetness that is impossible to achieve through steaming or boiling. Plus, they turn a far less sickly green; and we all know how much the visual aspect affects the eating experience. Add to the mix some fried pancetta and garlic, plus, essentially, a bacon vinaigrette (made from the rendered fat, vermouth and lemon juice), and you have a tasty side appropriate for any occasion (Thanksgiving, anyone? Cruciferous Vegetable Night?).
If you care to make these for a crowd, the recipe can easily be doubled. Just make sure to use two, large baking sheets and rotate them half way through. When I treated myself to a whole stalk of brussels from Trader Joe’s (it had over two pounds of brussels on it, a wicked value!) and lazily chose to jam them all onto one baking sheet (instead of lining another with parchment), they basically steamed instead of roasting, and weren’t nearly as good.
Naglee Park Garage-style Brussels Sprouts
Naglee Park Garage San Jose, CA)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Roasting Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 – 6 as a side
Roasted Brussels Sprouts:
- 1 pound (454 grams) Brussels sprouts, trim and quarter through stem end
- 14 grams (1 tablespoon) olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fried Pancetta and Garlic Sauce:
- 113 grams (4 ounce package) pancetta, cut into 1/4” cubes
- 14 grams (1 tablespoon) very thinly sliced garlic
- Pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) red pepper flakes (optional)
- 28 grams (2 tablespoons) dry vermouth or dry white wine (sparkling or still)
- 14 grams (1 tablespoon) freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more for serving
Roast Brussels Sprouts:
Preheat oven to 450°F, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, toss brussels with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange, one of the cut sides down, in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet (space them out so they take up the entire surface of the baking sheet and have plenty of room in between). Roast in preheated oven for about 15 minutes (start checking at 10), or until browned on the side touching the pan and somewhat blistery in spots on top — they should be tender, but not mushy.
Prepare Fried Garlic and Pancetta Sauce:
While the brussels are roasting, prepare fried pancetta and garlic sauce. Set a large (4 quart is good; if you’re in the market for a new pan, I REALLY love this one from All-Clad), non-reactive pan over medium heat. Once pan is hot, cook pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta to a plate when desired crispiness is reached. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) in rendered grease until light golden brown — stir constantly, the garlic can burn and become bitter very easily. Deglaze pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, with vermouth. Remove pan from heat.
Toss and Serve:
Once brussels are roasted, transfer them to the pan with garlic, add pancetta and lemon juice and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if desired. Serve immediately.
¹ If you’re a gluten-intolerant individual this may not be the best place to eat. I have gotten sick quite a few times after eating here, and the only reason I can come up with is cross-contact. In their defense, the kitchen is really small (like, probably smaller than your kitchen at home) which makes things a lot more difficult. At the end of the day, though, I’m really the one to blame as I’ve never been one to speak up strongly about my allergy (I realize just how bad this is, it’s something I’m working on getting more comfortable with), and, as a result, primarily choose to make restaurant-style dishes at home instead. (Plus, I’m too cheap to eat out…but that’s a different story!)