Let me start by saying, I don’t think there is anyone on this planet who hated brussel sprouts more than I did. I have tried them at various times throughout my life, prepared by different people and never had one I liked. Until I added bacon to them.
I don’t know what made me experiment with brussel sprouts, perhaps it was one last ditch effort to enjoy a vegetable that my whole family loves and insists on having at every holiday. I came up with the perfect recipe for the holidays – the combination of the cranberries, bacon and walnuts is truly epic and compliments (while masking) the taste of the sprouts. Adding the balsamic vinegar reduction was the coup de grâce, though, it completely changes the entire flavor. This recipe can be a main dish in itself or makes the perfect accompaniment to any dinner.
If it’s any testament as to how freakin’ delicious this is, I would willingly eat this a couple times a week. The leftovers are even better the next day, reheat beautifully and make a great lunch. This can be made up in advance and gently reheated in the microwave or oven. The measurements are subjective; if you love walnuts, add more. If you hate cranberries, use raisins or leave them out. You really can’t mess this up. Using 1 lb of bacon and 2 lbs of sprouts will yield about 10-12 side dish servings or 4-6 main dish servings.
- 2 lbs brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed and quartered
- Bacon (I use an entire pound. The ‘ends and pieces’ nitrate-free bacon from Trader Joe’s is awesome for this. Use less if you want, but at least 5-6 slices.)
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup chicken broth, bone broth or stock
- 1/4-1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4-1/2 cup organic dried cranberries
- Salt, to taste. (Warning: add this LAST — after the bacon — or you’ll regret it!)
- Wash, trim the ends and quarter the brussel sprouts. Set aside.
- In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until the fat releases. I like to chop it up before I cook it, but you can always crumble it afterwards. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Leave the bacon fat in the pan. Use it ALL, trust me.
In a small saucepan, reduce the balsamic vinegar over low to medium heat. You’ll need to whisk it so it doesn’t burn. You’ll know when it’s done, it will become thick and syrupy, like in the picture. Remove from heat and whisk in the chicken broth to deglaze the saucepan. Set aside.
- Saute the brussel sprouts in the bacon fat for a few minutes (I do this for 2-4 minutes). Make sure they’re all coated with it’s saturated goodness.
- Add the vinegar reduction and broth to the sprouts and mix it all up. Cook over low to medium heat until the sprouts are done the way you like them, approximately 5-10 minutes. You can cover the pan to speed up the cooking time, but I like to let the broth evaporate off. Don’t worry if there’s some liquid left, the cranberries will soak it up. Add more chicken broth if the pan dries out.
- When the sprouts are cooked, add the walnuts, cranberries and bacon back in and stir. Cook for a minute to heat through. Taste and add a pinch of salt if you want. You should find that any liquid left in the pan gets all soaked up. Serve and enjoy!