Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Unlike most people, I have always liked brussels sprouts. I can't explain it. It might have started with the microwave brussels in cheese-like sauce that my dad made for me when I was tiny. (I think he bought them by accident; usually he and I pigged out on broccoli in cheese-like sauce.)

That said, brussels sprouts can be really hard to cook well. If you roast them, they can be very dry. If you steam them, you don't get as full a flavor, and you risk overcooking them, which gives them that sulfurous, cabbage-family stink.

The trick is to use both moist and dry heat. I experimented with a few different methods: covering the roasting dish, steaming first and then roasting, etc. Those both helped, but didn't quite produce the effect I wanted.

But then I stumbled across a surprising solution. It's almost magical in it's simplicity and "wow, that shouldn't work"-ness. It's so magical, I almost feel like I shouldn't commit it to writing. Use frozen brussels, and don't thaw them first!

The frozen sprouts hold moisture in the form of tiny ice crystals inside the sprouts. So as those crystals melt and heat up, they steam the inside of the sprout, keeping the inner layers plump and moist. And roasting the frozen sprouts gives the outside layers time to get nice and crispy-brown, while the inside gets lightly and perfectly cooked.

Toss them first in plenty of flavorful olive oil and soft aromatic garlic powder, and you have something really special. And all made from things that you pulled out of the freezer or pantry and dumped directly into the pan!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
serves 2-3

- one 10oz box of brussels sprouts, still frozen
- at least 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or a lot more, to taste)
- a generous shake (appx 1/2 tsp) garlic powder (or a lot more, to taste)
- nice-quality salt, to taste


Preheat the oven to 425F (any temperature between 350 and 450F will work). Toss the brussels sprouts, still frozen, with the olive oil and garlic powder, until they are evenly-coated. Place in a single-layer in a baking dish and roast, turning once or twice, until heated through and darkly browned on at least one side (usually the bottom), usually 35-45 minutes. Salt to taste.

This is tasty enough to be a holiday side dish, and easy enough for everyday meals. I think it's especially good alongside lamb, roasted chicken or turkey, and roast beef. But any dish with a roasted character or with garlic (but not tomatoes) would probably work really well.


  • As with most of my recipes, the quantities are approximate, and don't really matter all that much. Just be generous with the olive oil and garlic powder, and you'll be fine.

  • While this dish is best when roasted at about 400-425, it will work just fine at anything from 350-450. So you can just throw it in the oven with whatever else you're cooking. (Except desserts: you really don't want them smelling like yummy roasting garlic. Unless you do...

  • These reheat beautifully. For a holiday meal, dinner party, or busy day, you can do most of the cooking ahead of time, and then reheat and finish crisping just before serving.

  • If you're in a hurry, you can thaw the brussels in the fridge or microwave, which cuts the cooking time about in half. I think the texture turns out best cooked directly from frozen.

  • I usually prefer to work with fresh ingredients, but you really will get better results (better texture and a much rounder, roastier flavor from) frozen sprouts and garlic powder.

  • If you do the tossing in the roasting dish, you have only one dish to wash!