Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Bacon

(Photo by Ben Fink.)

It is easy to say: “This is the perfect cold weather side dish.”  The truth is that there are a lot of perfect side dishes, which is just one reason why they are so beloved. But consider this dish.  Roasted Brussels sprout, sweetened with maple syrup, accented by salty crisp bits of bacon.  It does give one pause.  And if you can find a side dish that is a better match with a holiday roast pork or ham, not to mention a roast chicken, I’m willing to discuss the possibilities.

Print Recipe
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Bacon
Maybe I am being a little hyperbolic, but the sweet-salty-crisp combination of bacon and maple syrup has an almost aphrodisiacal effect, at least according to unscientific evidence with my dinner guests. The only drawback roasted vegetables as a holiday side dish is that they can be a hassle unless you have a second oven, as the primary oven is being used to cook the main course and most veggies take a solid 40 minutes of roasting. Unlike other vegetables, Brussels sprouts can be parboiled (even a day ahead) to reduce the roasting time without hurting their texture. That means the sprouts can be popped in the oven while the meat is resting before carving. Of course, if the main course is grilled or pan-cooked, the oven will be free for roasting.
Course Sides
Servings
4 to 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 thick-cut bacon strips
  • 1 1/4 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, larger sprouts cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably Dark (see Note)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Course Sides
Servings
4 to 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 thick-cut bacon strips
  • 1 1/4 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, larger sprouts cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably Dark (see Note)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning once, until crisp and browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain and cool. Pour the rendered bacon fat into a small bowl and set aside. (The bacon and bacon fat can be cooled, separately covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Reheat the bacon fat in a microwave oven or in a skillet just until melted.)
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sprouts and cook until they turn a brighter shade of green, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse well under cold running water, and drain again. Pat the sprouts dry with paper towels. (The sprouts can be wrapped in dry paper towels, stored in zip-tight plastic bags, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400ºF. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.
  4. Toss the sprouts and bacon fat in a large bowl until coasted. Spread the sprouts on the prepared pan. Bake the sprouts, turning them occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Drizzle the sprouts with the syrup and stir to coat them evenly. Return to the oven and continue baking, stirring once or twice, until the syrup has reduced to a glaze, 5 to 7 minutes more.
  5. Season the sprouts with salt and pepper. Coarsely chop the bacon and sprinkle over the sprouts. Serve hot.
Recipe Notes

Note: I developed this recipe for the US maple syrup industry changed its rules for grading syrup.  I used Grade B, which differentiated it from the lighter, more delicate Grade A However, someone in their wisdom decided that Grade B indicated that it was inferior.  So, now when you shop for maple syrup, they are all Grade A, and identified by their colors: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark.  For cooking, I prefer Grade A Dark. Some brands helpfully state "Formerly Grade B" on the labels.

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