I don’t know when brussels sprouts became such a ubiquitous menu item, but I feel like I’ve eaten them at every restaurant in New York City. Baked, fried, sauteed, in a salad, as a side. I’ve also cooked them myself in every possible manner – roasted with rosemary, sauteed with sriracha, browned with fish sauce and tamari. I thought I had sampled and seen it all. But when I came across Gjelina’s brilliant cookbook, I flipped to their recipe for brussels sprouts with dates and bacon and instantly knew I needed to give this humble veggie one last chance. And boy, am I happy that I did. The dates add a just-right caramel-y sweetness, the red wine vinegar packs an acidic punch, and the smokey bacon rounds out the recipe in perfect harmony. Check it out below, and I dare you not to eat them directly out of the pan in one sitting.
Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dates
3 ounces bacon, cut into ¼-inch wide matchsticks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup pitted dates
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Heat a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon and olive oil. Cook until the bacon has rendered most of its fat but is still juicy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a bowl and increase the heat to high. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan cut-side down and sear hard, without shaking the pan, until well-charred and beginning to black (see photo above), about 5 to 7 minutes. The idea is to get a deep, penetrating sear that nearly blackens the sprouts, but keeps them relatively green inside. Reduce the heat back to medium, flip the sprouts, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the dates and cooked bacon, and toss well. Add the stock to the pan, a little at a time, using a wooden spoon to smash the dates into the stock, breaking them into smaller pieces as the stock reduces into a sauce. Once the dates are incorporated, add the vinegar.
Continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the sprouts, but be careful not to reduce it too much or the sauce will become cloyingly sweet and sticky. (If you do over-reduce it, add a splash of stock or water to get it back to where you want it.) Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.