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From Scratch: Give thanks for better Brussels sprouts

If Brussels sprouts make your family say "yuck," forget boiling and try baking these tiny cabbages.

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch
  • One serving of Brussels sprouts meets vitamin C needs for the day.
  • Boiling makes Brussels sprouts stink. Really!
  • A 2008 survey named Brussels sprouts America's most-hated vegetable.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate abundance. The table is laden with a large roasted bird surrounded by numerous side dishes — mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts.

For the last item, many might say, “Wait a minute. Not on my table." Most Americans would agree.

A 2008 survey by the Heinz food company found that Brussels sprouts are America’s most-hated vegetable. Adults still have childhood memories of their mothers forcing them to eat mushy, gray-green, malodorous balls while extolling their health benefits.

Well, your mother was right in her health claims — but she was probably way off in her cooking methods.

The smell: Like other members of the cruciferous family, such as broccoli and kale, Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamins. One serving will meet your vitamin C needs for the day. However, also like other members of this family, they are rich in hydrogen sulfide gas, which produces their distinctive, off-putting smell.

This is particularly true when they are boiled. No matter how much butter you dump on them, boiled Brussels sprouts will not be tasty. This Thanksgiving, try a simple cooking method that will have your family clamoring for more of these tiny cabbages instead of running out the door.

A better way: First, begin by buying fresh Brussels sprouts. The most flavorful ones will have undergone a couple of frosts. To withstand the low temperatures, the sprout plants send a signal to produce sugar to prevent freezing. This gives them a sweet, nutty taste. Right now, vendors in Eastern Market are selling local Brussels sprouts still on the stem.

To prepare Brussels sprouts for cooking, trim off the stem ends and any loose leaves. Wash well.

Cut them in half lengthwise. Put them in a baking dish so they all fit in one layer.

Toss with enough olive oil to coat. Generously salt and pepper them, and add a couple of cloves of finely chopped garlic. Toss again.

Place them in a 350 degree oven, uncovered, and bake for 15 minutes. Toss with a spatula and bake for another 15 minutes. To test for doneness, pierce with the tip of a knife.

The Brussels sprouts can be cooked at any point in your holiday meal preparation and reheated in the oven before serving. If you are going to reheat, leave them slightly undercooked.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.