Thanksgiving dinner in my family is not the time for experimentation. We have old favorites whose recipes we pull out because, after all, we make and eat this food only once a year. Turkey may be the star of the show, but side dishes, including Brussels sprouts, deserve some spotlight treatment too with preparations that go beyond everyday recipes.
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Two of my children were born in Boston and grew up in Cambridge, Mass., where we lived for 15 years, so we still lean toward traditional New England Thanksgiving food even though we’ve all moved to Southern California. On Thanksgiving Day nary a jalapeño would appear on our table but rather maple syrup, cranberries and bread stuffing. We’re very “pilgrim” in our approach. Although Thanksgiving dinner is not codified, there is general agreement as to what will be on the table.
Many families make the turkey the centerpiece of the whole experience, and it should be. But this is no time to relegate the side dishes to the sideline. If you put as much care, consideration and love into those side dishes Thanksgiving dinner truly becomes memorable.
A real winner of a green vegetable dish is our hash of Brussels sprouts with maple-glazed bacon and hazelnuts.
Making new Brussels Sprouts fans
A New England Thanksgiving menu — the only truly proper one, I believe — has some prescribed dishes besides turkey, pumpkin and cranberry, and one of them is Brussels sprouts.
I like Brussels sprouts but many people don’t care for them. For people who don’t like them, this may be the ideal preparation because the final dish is hardly recognizable as Brussels sprouts. This is a terrific recipe and everyone at our Thanksgiving dinner always takes big servings.
This dish can be made Thanksgiving morning and left in the skillet to be reheated for 2 minutes on high when it is time to serve. Be careful not to overcook the Brussels sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts
Oil for sautéing
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
Coarse sea salt
8 thick-cut rashers maple-cured bacon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup crushed or chopped blanched hazelnuts
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour enough oil into the skillet or griddle to cover the cooking surface with slightly more than a film of oil.
2. Place the Brussels sprouts in the skillet, cut side down, and cook until blackened in spots and golden brown. Turn the vegetables with tongs and cook until the convex side is also browned, 5 to 8 minutes in all. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. By the time you place the last cut Brussels sprout down you will probably need to begin turning the first. Chop the cooked Brussels sprouts coarsely.
2. Lay the strips of bacon down in the skillet or griddle and cook until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and cool, then break it into ½-inch pieces.
3. In a large sauté pan or flameproof casserole, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook the hazelnuts, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Return the chopped Brussels sprouts, bacon and cooked hazelnuts to the pan and season with pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
5. Serve or reheat when Thanksgiving dinner is ready. (If reheating, do not cook for more than 2 minutes.)
Top photo: Brussels sprouts for hash. Credit: Clifford A. Wright