The book:  Brown Eggs & Jam Jars, by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque (Penguin Canada, $32)

The recipe:  Brussels sprouts with honey and hazelnuts

Why I tried itLike everybody else, I became a Brussels sprouts lover when I learned to roast them (and it doesn’t hurt that the tongue-twisting bitterness you remember from your childhood has been bred out of Brussels sprouts of the modern era). I had a moment of doubt when I saw this was sauté-in-a-skillet recipe, not a roast-in-a-pan recipe. But what sealed the deal was the hazelnuts – the honey-glazed hazelnuts. Let’s face it, if you ever want to solicit my allegiance, all you have to do is say the word “glaze.”

Why I loved it:  Although we don’t think about it much, properly cooked Brussels sprouts have an undercurrent of sweetness beneath their virtue, like a crotchety librarian with a heart of gold. The glazed hazelnuts, all crunch and cream, elicit that sweetness into song. And a scattering of grapefruit zest! of all things, brings its wintry brightness and lift to those autumnal flavors. It is not the most forgiving technique, so don’t try and get away with whole Brussels sprouts or too-big pieces.

Estimated preparation time:  Really, no more than a half-hour, even if you’re distracted or tipsy.

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Photos: © Tim and Angela Chin

Brussels sprouts with honey and hazelnuts

There is no steaming or blanching step here, and you can’t just leave them in longer as you would with roasted sprouts, so it’s important to get the size of the sprouts right. If they’re small, halves are fine. But if they’re not, cut them in thirds (for medium sprouts the size of cherry tomatoes) or quarters (for bigger sprouts the size of ping-pong balls) or even sixths if you get behemoth sprouts. Use a decent sized skillet and give them heat and space – you want some browning to occur, not just steaming.

Serves 4
1/4 cup (60 mL) whole raw hazelnuts
4 teaspoons (20 mL) olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons (30 mL) liquid honey
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) sea salt
1 pound (500 g) Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 grapefruit, scrubbed

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet in the oven for 8 minutes. Pour them into a clean tea towel and wrap them up. Vigorously rub the hazelnuts through the towel to remove the skins. Don’t worry if they don’t all come off.

3. In a small microwaveable bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of the honey. Warm for 15 seconds or so in the microwave and stir to combine. Add nuts to the mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of sea salt. Return the nuts to the baking sheet and toast in the oven for another 12 to 15 minutes or until they are light brown. Turn the pan of hot hazelnuts onto a cutting board and let them cool. Coarsely chop.

4. Trim the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts. Peel off the outer leaves and discard. Slice sprouts in half top to bottom.

5. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt butter together with the remaining 3 teaspoons (15 mL) olive oil. Add sprouts and cook, stirring frequently, just until they turn a vibrant green, with browned bits, 6 to 8 minutes.

6. Reduce heat to low and drizzle sprouts with the remaining tablespoon (15 mL) honey. Using a microplane, zest the grapefruit into the pan. Season Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper and stir to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with honey-roasted hazelnuts and serve hot.

Reprinted from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites (Penguin Canada, $32.00)