Exploring global food and food culture

Bacon Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Blue Cheese

The holidays for many families are about traditions, new and old, the continuity of life continuing, year after year. Despite changes. Despite anything. We have a lot of traditions in our family around Christmas time, and many of them revolve around food. One that my wife and I have added in the last few years is this recipe for Bacon Brussels Sprouts.

Bacon and brussels sprouts are meant to go together. I used to think, like many people that I didn’t like brussels sprouts. That was because the only way I had had them prepared was boiled, essentially leaving nothing but a rubbery semi-bitter approximation of their former glory. Cooking them with bacon caramelizes them, balancing out the faint bitterness (common to most brassica vegetables; there’s a blog post there somewhere in the future). Also, it adds bacon. Because, you know. Bacon.

To round out the flavor, we add balsamic vinegar, for that hint of sweet and sour, and blue cheese, for creaminess, of course, but also because of the assertive funky flavor that it adds. You end up with something that’s much more than the sum of its parts. It all just works together.

The technique:

First, you need your mise en place:

brussels sprouts

Halve brussels sprouts. Cook bacon and dice it (set aside some for snacking, if needed). Gather bacon grease, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Dice garlic cloves and set aside.

Make sure you know where you blue cheese is. You’ll want that handy.

blue cheese

Next, in a large pan, add olive oil and bacon grease, and fry the halved brussels sprouts over a medium heat. Like so:

brussels sprouts

Add kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper (seriously, none of that nasty pre-ground stuff, please) and continue to fry until they begin to brown. They should start to look something like this:

Next, add cooked bacon and garlic, and cook for another few minutes, stirring constantly so that all the garlic bits start to brown.

brussel sprouts

When the sprouts start to become a little soft, deglaze with balsamic vinegar and cook for a minute or two more, stirring constantly.

Finally, add the crumbled blue cheese, then take the pan off the heat and cover. This dish is best served warm, with the blue cheese just beginning to melt.

And that’s it.  Humble ingredients transformed by the alchemy of cookery into the sublime and elegant.  A small bit of joy and magic in an otherwise mundane and drab world.

That’s one of our holiday food traditions.  What are yours?

The ingredients:

  • 1 package brussels sprouts
  • 5 pieces cooked and diced bacon
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup whole walnuts
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 package crumbled blue cheese

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