Depending on how much you squint, a Brussels sprout either looks like a mini head of cabbage or a mini head of, um, human, which is why, long, long ago, surgeons believed that this vegetable was a cure for a hangover. And who wouldn’t want to wake up to a plate of these salty, charred, crisp-tender sprouts after a wild night?
As a member of the cabbage family—cabbage, sure, but also broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and then some—Brussels sprouts are either adored for their cuteness (my mom) or rejected for their bitterness (my dad). They can be mandolin-shredded into a salad, baked in a gratin, or boiled then treated to bacon-mayo. But the method that’s arguably the lowest in effort and highest in reward is sautéing.
There are a few keys to superlative sautéed Brussels sprouts: First, have a pan that is big enough for all the halved sprouts to stretch into a single layer; this enables browning and sidesteps steaming. (If you don’t have such a pan, either order one—an oversize cast-iron skillet never goes out of style—or cook in batches instead.) Second, once the sprouts are coated in oil and salt, resist the urge to stir; just leave them alone. You want the vegetable to get a dramatic sear on one side, like crispy-skinned salmon, and the only way to accomplish this is patience.
The flourishes here are simple—just salt, black pepper or chile flakes, and lemon juice or vinegar (sherry is lovely if you have it). This is all that’s needed for flavor-crowded feasts like Thanksgiving (or a Tuesday night when you’re too tired for anything more). If you want to take things a step further, just before serving, try: a snow shower of grated cheese (say, Parmesan, pecorino, or aged Gouda); a handful of chopped, toasted nuts (especially hazelnuts or pecans); vinegar-soaked dried fruit (raisins, diced prunes, you name it); and/or diced, pan-crisped meat (from bacon to pancetta). —Emma Laperruque
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 4
Neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)
Freshly ground black pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly squeezed lemon juice and/or your favorite vinegar
- Trim the very bottom of the Brussels sprouts, removing the roughed-up base but keeping the core intact. Halve the Brussels sprouts lengthwise.
- Set a large skillet—preferably cast-iron—over medium-high heat. (The skillet should be large enough that the halved sprouts can lie in a single layer. If that’s not possible, you can cook the sprouts in batches.) Add about 2 tablespoons of oil, enough to generously lacquer the bottom.
- When the oil is hot and almost smoking, add the Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle generously with salt and toss so all the sprouts are coated in fat. Use tongs to ensure that all the sprouts are laying flat, cut side facing down. Cook for 3 to 6 minutes—rotating the pan halfway through, but not stirring the sprouts at all—until the bottoms are golden brown and charring. If the pan starts to look dry at any point, add more oil as needed. Flip the sprouts and continue cooking, 2 to 4 minutes, until they’re almost as tender as you like (they’ll continue to cook a bit outside the pan). Turn off the heat and season with pepper to taste and more salt if you need it. Transfer to a platter.
- These are great hot, warm, or at room temperature. Just before serving, season with lemon juice or vinegar to taste.