brussels sprouts and bourbon

From my teen years on, I’ve enjoyed veggies of all sorts. As soon as I figured out they could be eaten in almost endless quantities without contributing many calories, I became a big fan. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower? Bring ’em on. Greens such as kale, chard, spinach? Yes, please. Onions? Eggplant? Bell peppers? Yep, yep, and yep.

As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the colors and shapes of produce in general. They’re not cookie-cutter foods from a factory; they’re grown and harvested and brought to market. (Speaking of markets, buying produce at farmers’ markets brings on a high that can last for days.) Then there’s the fun-to-cook-with factor. Because veggies taste different roasted than steamed than grilled than sautéed, there are endless ways to keep variety in the mix.

Roasting is my favorite way to cook vegetables as the high temps caramelize and bring out an inherent sweetness. But when washing and trimming Brussels sprouts the other night, I decided to throw caution to the wind and sauté these babies. (I’m one crazy cook, yes?)

why ever not?

why ever not?

Because I genuinely enjoy the flavor of (most) veggies, a spritz of olive oil and sprinkle of coarse salt is as fancy as I usually get. That said, I had an itch to spice things up a bit with these sprouts. My soft spot for all things bourbon coupled with a glance at a nearby bourbon bottle put the figurative light bulb above my head. Bourbon and Brussels sprouts? Why ever not?

A good glug (3 tablespoons or so) went into the cast-iron skillet where the sprouts were cooking in olive oil. The immediate scent of bourbon rose from the pan and I wondered if maybe I had made a mistake. Perhaps these flavors weren’t meant for each other after all? They sure looked good, though: A few minutes later, the bourbon had evaporated and the Brussels sprouts were a rich and bright green, with shades of mahogany borrowed from the bourbon. They were gorgeous.

good for you? goes without saying. but these B sprouts are really really good!

good for you? goes without saying. but these B sprouts are really really good!

Even better, these sprouts were knock-outs in the flavor department. Even my husband, who eats what I cook because he’s a nice guy (but would really rather be eating veggies of the peas and corn variety), gobbled them down, noting that the bourbon actually mellowed the strong sprout flavor. Somehow the in-your-face bourbon and sprout flavors canceled each other out, resulting in an alchemy that was sweeter, softer, and more neutral. Because I hadn’t overcooked the sprouts (this time), the texture was right on–a slight chew, but stopping short of mush. They made a fine veggie side dish and got me thinking that I should try adding bourbon to other vegetables as well.

Cooking up these sprouts was loads of fun. The adult in me got to play with spirits in the kitchen and my inner 16-year-old is delighted that she can eat lots of veggies and still have room for dessert.