Remember school lunches way back when? Were you a member of the “Clean Plate Club”? OK, so here’s how it worked at Manhattan Elementary in Tampa 50 years ago.
Everyday after lunch the teacher would call each kid’s name from the class roster. There were 3 replies—“clean plate”, “little bit” or “no”.
The only answer that was good was “clean plate” which meant that you had eaten every morsel from your divided plastic plate. You could get away with 3 “little bits” each grading period.
But if you said “little bit” or “clean plate” trying to pull the wool over teacher’s eyes there was always some goodie two-shoes who would snitch, usually with a snide “nuh-uhh”. And then you’d incur the teacher’s wrath with a guilty sentence meted out of eraser clapping or blackboard cleaning after school.
There was one dish that tripped more of us up than any other. It was the nemesis of the “Clean Plate Club”. I’m talking Brussels Sprouts!
Green, spongy, golf-ball size morsels of “yuck” boiled to a gag-reflex inducing consistency. That was the school lunch version.
But—that’s no longer the case. There are other ways to cook Brussels sprouts. Ways that are delectable and tasty.
Here’s one way I came up with that was fantastic with our Christmas Dinner. It’s tasty enough for a 23 year old with an aversion to vegetables to voluntarily eat and actually enjoy seconds. Now that’s an endorsement!
Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Summary: Roasted Brussels Sprouts are a long, long way from the stuff we got in school lunches. They’re really, really terrific.
- Get out a large sauté pan and a baking dish along with your cutting board, chef’s knife and colander.
- Clean the Brussels sprouts by cutting the stem off and peeling and discarding the now loose outer layer of the sprout. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise.
- Chop the onion.
- Heat the skillet over medium high heat (about 5 o’clock on the dial of an electric stove). Lay the strips of bacon in the skillet and let it brown. When browned, remove bacon to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Leave the bacon fat in the pan!
- Return the pan to the stovetop, let the pan reheat and and then add the Brussels sprouts. You’re starting to soften the sprouts but more importantly you’re getting a bit of color or caramelization on them. This is going to take about 10 minutes.
- After about 5 of those minutes, add the onions and give everything a good stir. Then add about 2 tbsp of balsamic along with some salt and pepper. And you can toss in some garlic or granulated garlic too if you want.
- Remove the pan from the stove, dump everything into the baking dish, give it a good stir, add the chili flakes and the rest of the balsamic. Put the dish into the oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, stir one last time and enjoy.
- NOTE: Vegetarian version—Eliminate the bacon! Pan sauté the sprouts and onion in vegetable oil and add 1/2 cup pecan or walnut pieces or almond slivers or pine nuts instead of using bacon.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
These are really tasty and aromatic. There’s still some “tooth” left in the sprouts and it has a really nice, roasted flavor with just a bit of crunch from either the bacon or the nuts. (I think I’m actually going to just switch to the vegetarian version—bacon in everything is just getting overdone). This dish is nothing close to that old “school lunch” version which gave all of us an aversion to Brussels sprouts.
The Cheap Bastid Test: Brussels sprouts were $.99 a pound and it took about a 1 ½ pounds for $1.50. The bacon cost about $1, the onion about $.15. The grand total for this tasty dish was $2.65 for 6 healthy servings. That’s $.44 per serving! We love cheap. We love good. Cheap and good combined are even better.
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!