Let me just share with you that I really do love Brussels sprouts. I understand, however, that not everyone likes them as much as I do, but I think that’s more a result of never having tried a really flavor-packed Brussels sprout side dish. These precious little green orbs, these mini “cabbage-like” cuties, are truly just a perfect accompaniment for any succulent spread—holiday, or not. Simply roasted with a few bells ‘n whistles thrown in, Brussels sprouts are a veg that I have a hard time not continuously grazing on after they come out of the oven all lightly crispy and caramelized, slightly sweet and slightly savory. And I have a feeling that if you give these babies a try as a part of your own special holiday meal, they’ll make a lover of Brussels sprouts out of you yet—if you’re not one already.
Brussels sprouts themselves aren’t complicated to prepare, and prepare well. They just require a little creativity in the add-ins department to really take them over the top and make them a stand-out side. Sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, some silky, rich, golden olive oil and about 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven transforms these little emerald-colored gems into perfectly crisp yet tender morsels; and add into them some lightly smoky, crisped-up pancetta, some glossy, caramelized onions, some sweetly tangy dried Montmorency cherries and crunchy, toasted walnuts, all drizzled with a tangy cider-glaze, and you have a savory-sweet, gorgeously festive veggie side to proudly display on your table along with all of the other goodies that you’re serving.
Leave it to the cozy holidays to inspire using some delicious decadences to take a vegetable side dish to the next level, and to bring out the gorgeous natural colors of the Christmas season, to boot. The holidays are about the flourishes, the tasty little touches that add so much to the meal experience; and with these scrumptiously roasted, cider-glazed Brussels sprouts with those delectable little “bells ‘n whistles” thrown in, you’ve got yourself a perfect little companion side dish that most everyone will surely smack their lips over.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Roasted Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta, Caramelized Onions, Sweet Dried Cherries and Toasted Walnuts
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(Serves about 4-6)
• Olive oil
8 ounces pancetta, finely diced
1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 lbs Brussels sprouts (end stems trimmed if needed and discolored leaves removed), quartered
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ cup dried Montmorency cherries
¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
• Cider Glaze (recipe below)
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil.
-Place a medium-size non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle very lightly with olive oil; once hot, add in the diced pancetta, and allow it to crisp up until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes; using a slotted spoon, remove the crisped pancetta from the pan and place onto a paper towel-lined bowl/plate to drain, and set aside; reserve about 2- 2 ½ tablespoons of the pancetta drippings, and discard the rest; next, lightly clean out the pan you crisped the pancetta in, and add back into it the reserved pancetta drippings, and turn the heat on the medium-high; once hot, add in the sliced red onion, and allow it to caramelize until golden-brown for about 15-20 minutes; remove from pan and set aside.
-Next, toss the quartered Brussels sprouts with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the sea salt, cracked pepper and Italian seasoning; drizzle a little olive oil onto the foil-lined baking sheet, and turn the Brussels sprouts out onto the baking sheet and roast for about 23-25 minutes until golden-green and crisp-tender; remove from oven, toss in the reserved caramelized onion, pancetta, dried cherries and chopped toasted walnuts (if too hot, use a metal spoon to toss), and lightly drizzle the Cider Glaze over the Brussels sprouts, starting with about half of it, and using all, if desired.
Cider Glaze ingredients:
½ cup apple cider vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
-Into a small, heavy-bottom sauce pan, add the ½ cup apple cider vinegar, the ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and whisk together; place the sauce pan over medium heat, and once the mixture begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thicken up and syrupy; turn the heat off, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar; allow to cool slightly and drizzle over the Brussels sprouts while still warm; or to make ahead, completely cool the glaze and keep it in a small dish covered with plastic wrap in the fridge until ready to use, at which point you can gently re-heat it stove top.