This version of shredded brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans might be the perfect Thanksgiving side dish, and can be made ahead to save you T-day stress.
I admit it. I love brussels sprouts. And not just for Thanksgiving, either. I think it’s probably one of the vegetables that Matt and I make most often. Our standard go-to recipe is to split them in half, coat them with olive oil, course salt and pepper and roast them in a very hot oven until they are as brown and crispy as french fries. The only tricky thing about that method is that they have to be served piping hot, right out of the oven or they get a little soggy. Still tasty, but not transcendent.
For me, getting all the side dishes timed perfectly so they’re at the exact perfect temperature by the time the turkey is ready is one of the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving. I feel like the kitchen becomes a ten ring circus, with every burner going on the stovetop and a million things stuffed into the oven. Oy, I’m giving myself agita just thinking about it. That’s why I like to serve at least a couple of dishes that are great at room temperature. These brussles sprouts fit that bill because they are absolutely delicious hot, warm or room temp.
I love the combination of sweet maple syrup with the saltiness of bacon (though I often use pancetta, bacon’s Italian cousin). The hit of lemon at the end gives it a freshness that is a welcome treat long side the heavier holiday dishes. The fact that the sprouts are shredded not only makes the cooking time extremely quick, but it eliminates the problem of having unevenly cooked sprouts, which can be a problem when they’re larger. Though you could cook these at the last minute if you wanted to, I usually make them while the turkey’s in the oven and set them aside in a warm spot until everything else is ready.
Note: For a vegetarian version, skip the bacon and cook the sprouts in olive oil. Then add 1-2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika along with the garlic and thyme. You might want to add a touch more salt, to taste.
- The sprouts can be shredded up to two days ahead. Wrap the shredded sprouts in a couple of paper towels and place in a ziplock bag. Keep them cool until ready to cook. A food processor fitted with a slicing blade will do the shredding job in seconds but you could also use a mandoline or a knife.
- The nuts can be toasted a day ahead and set aside. Use whatever nuts you like best. Walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, even chestnuts would be great.
- Even the bacon can be cooked ahead but make sure to save the drippings because you need them to cook the sprouts in.
- ½ lb. thick sliced bacon (or pancetta), cut in ¼-inch lardons
- 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
- 1 teaspoon course kosher salt
- ⅔ cup pecans (or walnuts), toasted, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup (grade B, if you can find it)
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- In a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, render the bacon over medium heat until they are crispy and brown. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.
- Toss the sprouts in the pan, season with a pinch of kosher salt, and cook in the bacon fat over medium heat until they soften and begin to brown in spots, about 4-6 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and thyme, and cook for another 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the nuts and the reserved bacon, pour in the maple syrup, and give a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.