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Charred brussels sprouts

Credit: www.fleetwoodfernandez.comCredit:

I just got back from a big family event in Los Angeles. When I was there, my sibs and I went out one evening for dinner at Gjelina — a really boisterous, fun, Cal-Italian restaurant in Venice. (Thanks so much for the recommendation, Leslie. It was perfect!)

The restaurant definitely set off my, um, bouchedag radar at first — it was so loud in the front room around the centerpiece wood-burning oven, and the clientele was young and chic. But we ended up at great table in the lounge where conversation was easy. Our waiter may have looked like the pre-Twitter Ashton Kutcher, but he was thoughtful and hugely attentive.

The food — small plates mostly — was across-the-board great. Clean, fresh, interesting and lively. Highlights included a salad with Little Gem persimmon, pomegranate, shaved radish, garlic chips and Point Reyes blue cheese as well as thin-crusted pizza topped with shaved asparagus, shallot confit, truffled Sottocenere cheese and a farm egg. Then again, the Niman Ranch pork belly with grits, bitter greens and apple cider was pretty terrific, too.

But the dish that made everyone swoon was a plate of charred brussels sprouts with bacon, dates and vinegar. The waiter talked us into the first plate (thereby ensuring himself a spot in heaven) and didn’t act at all surprised when we ordered a second, and then a third.

Here is a recipe I devised that gets close to the original. By the way, I stole the brussels-sprout charring technique wholesale from the great food blog, 101 Cookbooks. Cooking the brussels sprouts through in a covered skillet, then turning up the heat to char the surface, ensures that amazing, neither-soft-nor-firm texture.

Gjelina-style Brussels Sprouts

  • 1/4 pound slab bacon, cut into lardons
  • 24 small brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 large Medjool dates, pitted and cut into thick slivers
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Fry the bacon lardons in a heavy-bottomed skillet — preferably cast iron — until crisp-chewy. Set aside. Remove the bacon fat and wipe out the pan. (Resist the temptation to use the bacon fat for frying.)

Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact.

Follow the 101 Cookbooks technique: “Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.”

Return the bacon to the pan and add the date slivers. Toss gently with the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat like candy.

19 comments Add your comment

Jim R.

January 14th, 2010
3:53 pm

Sounds Great..My favorite for what it’s worth:
Steam Sprouts 5 mins, skewer, put on grill, baste with italian dressing,
rotate to char (Not burn) serve sprinkled with Parm/Reg cheese.
Mucho Yummy


January 14th, 2010
6:01 pm

My dad discovered charred brussels at one of Michael Symon’s Cleveland restaurants a few months ago (I think it was Lola). He raved about them for months and he cooked some over Christmas. Awesome. It brings out a great sweetness. That’s how I’ll be cooking brussel sprouts from now on.

Mark C.

January 14th, 2010
6:10 pm

Reminds me of Alton Brown’s brussel sprouts recipes: in one he grills them, tossing them in oil and spices; in the other he simmers them and tosses them with bacon, apple, cream, and mustard…those were AWESOME! :-)


January 14th, 2010
6:54 pm

I have had roasted sprouts and love them. Gotta try this.

Ramona Clef

January 15th, 2010
10:40 am

Seems to be a trend. Last night I made turkey cutlets with sprouts/shallots/dried cranberries/vinegar. Recipe from Epicurious. It was nice.

Dunwoody Don

January 15th, 2010
11:20 am

T’is the season for sprouts…and winter squash, too. My favorite is a 10-star recipe my wife found online [google "Seared Autumn Vegetables"] and made last night. The contrasting flavors of the Brussels sprouts and butternut squash are united with a light coat of maple syrup, chopped pecans and ground nutmeg. Delicious!

John Kessler

January 15th, 2010
11:38 am

These recipes sound amazing! Looks like I’ve got a lot of brussels sprouting in my future. thanks, all

Chip Shoulder

January 15th, 2010
12:08 pm

The best- Momofuku Ko’s.

This recipe sounds odd, but is remarkably delicious and easy. A word of caution: the sprouts don’t need 45 mins at 450; that temp and time results in a burnt and bitter sprout. 30 at 400 or 425 gets them golden brown. Find Japanese 7 spice at YDFM in a small orange bottle.


January 15th, 2010
12:44 pm

What are lardons? tiny strips? tiny pieces? cubes?

Chip Shoulder

January 15th, 2010
1:06 pm

Enter your comments here

Jim R.

January 15th, 2010
2:00 pm

For what it’s worth: Lardons can be hard to find, I freeze a couple of strips of thick sliced bacon and grate while still frozen. Cheating? Maybe. Traditional? Nope. Grandma DiBartola approve? Never. Tasty and Easy? Yep. Good topping for my grilled sprouts? You Bet!
In addition, not that anyone asked, They are also easy to grow and make a great late summer or early fall treat.

John Kessler

January 15th, 2010
3:26 pm

Yes, lardons are traditionally cubes of cured pork belly. It’s the bacon you get with a warm salad of chicory lettuce hearts and a poached egg in France — one of my favorite salads ever.
Jim: Brussels sprouts are easy to grow? I had no idea.

Jim R.

January 15th, 2010
4:25 pm

Certainly. Growing up in Druid Hills we always had them in our garden. (Unless W.T. Sherman was in town) My father always sprouted them from seed but I think I saw seedlings at Pike’s last year. Planted in mid-summer they grow on stalks and are ‘always sweetest after the first frost’. That’s a quote I haven’t thought of in some years. Happy memories! Also seems like I saw someone on HGTV growing them in a pot on a rooftop in NYC or somewhere. If you are interested in seeing them on the stalk, check out Dekalb Farmers Market, I think they sell them that way. Good Luck, and next time I’ll tell you about my dad’s lardon vine’s.

Sarah Watton

January 15th, 2010
8:03 pm

MMMMMMHHHHHH!!!!! Thanks for sharing.


January 15th, 2010
8:36 pm

“Bouchedag” I learned a new phrase today……….


January 16th, 2010
11:26 am

John, I found this one on Epicurious; Fettucine with Brussel Sprouts and pine nuts. It’s simple and delicious…

Gone Fishin'

January 18th, 2010
5:32 pm

We have Tasso in the freezer for the same reason. Just grate with a microplane. Tasty.

Busy eating

January 19th, 2010
10:05 am

John.. I had stumbled across 101 Cookbooks recently. It is a great food blog.

Liz Ohh

January 20th, 2010
11:13 pm

My favorite starter @ Gjelinas’ for SURE. And am going to attempt to recreate this recipe on my own…right…now. Wish me luck!