The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Seared Brussels Sprouts and Bacon, Here's Why I Love You

brussels sprouts and bacon
Brussels sprouts and bacon covered in fried onions.

"Looks like we've both gone to our default meals."

Three nights ago my roommate Chris pulled out a frozen pizza from Whole Foods, his "I'm at home and want to eat something that I know I'll like but won't take much effort" meal of choice. He came home as I was halving Brussels sprouts and frying half a pound of chopped bacon, ensuring that bacon fumes diffused into every cubic inch of our apartment. And the hallway outside our apartment. And probably a few feet beyond our building's front door.

The fate of the Brussels sprouts and bacon: Kenji's recipe for "Brussels Sprouts Worth Eating"—aka, seared Brussels sprouts and bacon. It's easily my most oft-cooked dish that doesn't come out of the freezer. Why? Because to make it I only have to buy two ingredients: bacon and Brussels sprouts. This is a big deal as someone who sparingly cooks at home (I eat out a lot, not always predictably so), and when I do, it's just for myself. Cooking from scratch for one person after getting home late from work can be a frustrating exercise in getting the most deliciousness with the fewest leftover ingredients in a reasonable amount of time. This recipe requires no extra starches, no herbs, no spices, no sauces, no medley of anything. And I use all of the bacon and Brussels sprouts in one go, with no leftover ingredients—like a bag of cilantro when all I needed was a tablespoon, or a tub of ricotta when all I needed was....not a tub, or a whole mess of other half-used ingredients left to age in my fridge-turned-35°F-cell-of-decay.

With Brussels sprouts and bacon, I crisp up the bacon, dump the bacon in a bowl and reserve the fat, coat the halved sprouts in the reserved bacon fat, return the sprouts to the same pan, cut side down, cook on high heat for three minutes, flip sprouts over and cook for about another three minutes, and then IT'S OVER.

...Well. I usually need to cook another one or two pans because my pan isn't big enough for 40-something halved Brussels sprouts. But overall, it doesn't take that long. After all the sprouts are cooked, toss them in a bowl with the bacon, add some salt and pepper if you want, and you're done. Kenji suggests adding some extra vegetable or olive oil to the first bacon rendering step to ensure you end up with enough fat for the Brussels sprouts, but I skip this (or rather, I accidentally skipped it at some point and just continued skipping it) and make do with the bacon fat I end up with. Admittedly, I usually go with a higher bacon-to-Brussels sprouts ratio: about 1/2 pound of bacon to 1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, unlike Kenji's 1/2 pound to 2 pounds. If you want more bacon, go for it.

I pack half of the Brussels sprouts and bacon for the next day's lunch or dinner and dump the other half in a bowl, perhaps topped with sprøstekt løk (Norwegian fried onions, most popularly used as a hot dog topping, but I put them on almost anything I cook at home since Kåre gave me four bags of the stuff and it tastes awesome). Happiness is being curled up in front of my computer while watching something on Hulu (I'm devoted to Fringe, House, and Chuck, in case anyone's curious) and chewing hearty mouthfuls of charred, tender cabbagey babies, a bit crisp and sweet, enhanced with nubs of salty pork.

If you eat this dish and don't fall in love with my cruciferous friend, I don't think I can trust you.

Oh, if you have suggestions for other awesome two-ingredient meals, let me know! My cooking repertoire is about an extensive as my workout regimen. Or my shoe collection. Or my ability to speak Mandarin. Or my knowledge of early modern European history. Or my ambition. I can just keep on listing stuff that I lack, but I think you get the idea.


Maggie / March 5, 2011 6:47 PM

Yum. Never made this! I also like brussels sprouts roasted until very crispy (and a little burnt.)

Other two-ingredient meal: fake creamed spinach. You saute spinach and stir in creme fraiche. Done. Bechamel is for the less-lazy.

Mikey / March 5, 2011 7:07 PM

Thanks for igniting my love for the sprout some time ago. I make it a point to eat them at least once a month now. If my mom could see me eating sprouts and like them, she would be so pleased. :)

Sandra / March 5, 2011 7:38 PM

1) Recent brussels sprouts convert here! It is hands down one of the most versatile vegetables. The mini-cabbages do not get enough love.

2) In regards to 2-ingredient meals, I used to be saute any vegetable with chinese sausage. Being lazy, I used vegetables like frozen spinach, cabbage, yellow/green squashes, zucchini (basically anything that required minimal preparation). My mom is a fan of buying canned stewed tomatoes from Costco, and she would saute a can of tomatoes with a block of tofu, the aforementioned vegetables, or eggs.

3) OMG CHUCK. Love that show so much.

Sandra / March 5, 2011 7:42 PM

(Argh, I realized that I said "I used to..."; just wanted to clarify that I don't do it now b/c I can't cook in the city, not because it wasn't delicious. And now this just makes me sound like a crazy person. Anyway, I promise I'm not, and happy cooking!)

Jeanne / March 5, 2011 10:59 PM

Whoa. 2 ingredients! I am intrigued. The only way I cook after work is if I'm making a fried egg, so I usually cook on my days off and make a big batch of something. This looks do-able! Thanks for the idea!

jesi / March 6, 2011 8:28 PM

-ramen [boiled, water dumped off and packet mixed in with just wet noodz] topped with a fried egg. hot sauce and salt & pepper if you have them.
-gobs of vegetable cream cheese or any kind of dip or spread [spinach & artichoke dip or seafood dip is the best] on top of frozen or microwave pizza.
-mushrooms sauteed with lots of butter and garlic on top of ramen, rice, anything.
mmmm poverty/lazy meals. im going to try your brussel sprouts, that sounds really easy! i can cook complicated things, i just... choose not to.

Philip / March 6, 2011 8:42 PM

That's very similar to something I make, but I do use more ingredients:

I have to add some garlic and butter, and after I'm done pan-frying I deglaze with a drier white wine (that I then have to drink while having the sprouts).

janet / March 6, 2011 9:43 PM

Yum yum! My go-to simple meal is roasting anything veggie + garlic + olive oil, especially broccoli and kale, to the point where things get crispy in there.

Suggestion to if you want to add a third to your brussel sprout party - crunchy apple!

roboppy / March 6, 2011 10:22 PM

Maggie: AHH YOU HAVEN'T MADE IT! MAKE IT NOOOW I mean as soon as it's convenient for you. I'll have to try the fake creamed spinach!

Mikey: Mom-approved! Always a good thing. My mom would probably approve more without the pork,'m always going to include pork. :)

Sandra: I've done the veg-n-sausage thing too! YAAY HIGH FIVE (SLAP). Unfortunately the last time I did it I forgot about the sausages sitting in my fridge and...they...sat there...for quite a while. Like "I'm not sure how long these have been sitting here, and I don't want to eat them to find out I shouldn't have eaten them." Oops. Chinese sausages are sooogoood.

AND YESS, CHUCK IS SO GOOD. Remember when NBC was thinking of canceling it after season 1? Methinks that almost happened. I was like, "NOOO NOOOHH DON'T RUIN A GOOD THING WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT." I didn't actually tell them that though, I just shouted it in my head hoping they'd hear it.

Emily: That sounds good! I don't have lemon juice or garlic though..okay, I could buy those things. ;) Thanks for the link!

Jeanne: No prob! Let me know if you try the recipe AND THEN LOVE IT FOREVER.

Jesi: I've never gotten the cream cheese pizza suggestion, but I would try it. Hmmm. [strokes chin] And I gotta give more love to the shrooms. Thanks for the suggestions!

Philip: Garlic and butter sound like good additions. I'll think about that for next time. :)

Janet: I'm quite a fan of glorious kale. I gotta eat it more often. Haven't thought of adding apple before, thanks for the suggestion!

c / March 6, 2011 10:30 PM

Those fried onions looks deliciouss! Did something similar to this sans onions in freshman year, but with wedges of cabbage or bits of kale depending on which was cheaper.

My other cheap go-to is a bowl of rice with a pile of any kimchi and an overeasy egg. And, a bowl of miso/doenjang broth. Fluffy carby thing, cool crispy spicy/tart thing, oozy fatty thing, and warm liquid thing.

Caren / March 7, 2011 2:53 AM

I found your blog from a google alert. Being a mom, I hadn't thought much lately about the 1 person meals I used to make when in college. Your recipes sounds yummy. My 12 year old loves brussel sprouts. We will have to try it. Maybe over some penne pasta with olive oil.

Another 2 ingredient suggestion would be what we had for dinner. Ground beef with blue cheese crumbles. Maybe some salt and pepper (sorry I added spices). I stuff a ball of meat, flatten it, and then fry it with no extra oil. You can put it on sliced bread (no fancy buns needed). The melted blue cheese is great!

Hammama / March 7, 2011 4:10 PM

I *lurve* brussel sprouts with bacon- the addition of fried onions is genius!
Try splashing in some worcestershire sauce into the pan towards the end of cooking- it caramelizes and clings to the sweet brussel sprouts adding some acidity.

Sandra / March 7, 2011 7:16 PM

Was it during the writer's strike? It almost went the way of Pushing Daisies :( I totally bought a subway sandwich during the save-chuck-campaign. NBC, why would you *not* want a show with a awesome cast with great chemistry plus a good story?!

Rebecca / March 8, 2011 7:29 AM

That looks great! I don't suppose the fried onions are available in NYC?

roboppy / March 8, 2011 12:06 PM

c: "Fluffy carby thing, cool crispy spicy/tart thing, oozy fatty thing, and warm liquid thing" = recipe for success! I should combine all those things more often.

Caren: Thanks for the suggestion! Pasta would go nicely with the brussels sprouts.

Hammama: Need to get me some Worcestershire sauce--thanks for the suggestion!

Sandra: Oo, I don't remember when it was, but I almost forgot about Pushing Daisies! I watched a bit of it. But. Not enough, apparently. :( I like Lee Pace, wah wah.

Rebecca: I've sometimes seen Lars' Own Crispy Onions at Whole Foods, but you may want to call em first. I don't know why this stuff isn't more popular here. I guess we have French's fried onions? I've never actually bought em!

Meegan / March 8, 2011 4:58 PM

I shred my brussell sprouts or if I am lazy thinly slice cabbage, then fry up bacon shallots and garlic, and the sprouts or cabbage, and cook until wilted and slightly charred, some sriracha, and salt, sooooo good.

serena / March 9, 2011 12:26 AM

Um, YES PLEASE. I only recently learned to love this much-maligned vegetable. I do the bacon route too, and throw some maple syrup on the whole mess for good measure.

Kristin / March 9, 2011 4:26 PM

Similar to my favorite go-to side dish, but I use four ingredients: onion, Brussels sprouts, pancetta (or regular bacon if it isn't available), and marsala wine. Cook onions, add bacon, add wine, add sprouts (or boil sprouts first and then finish off in the pan with the other ingredients.) If you are feeling frisky, add some chestnuts too!

You'll have some leftover Marsala wine, but that is a very good thing...

C / March 9, 2011 6:33 PM

I love those meals! Tasty, uncomplicated, and easy to shop and cook. I bet way more people would cook if they had those recipes. Many, many of us just do not have the will to make 10+ ingredient dishes on a daily basis and I hate wasting ingredients because they've gone off.
My favorite of these meals is baked sweet potato with whatever. Oil and salt a sweet potato and put it in the oven at 400 for 30-45 minutes, depending on size. It should look shriveled and be leaking over your oven by the end. Cut it open along its length and fill with sour cream, cheese, bacon, fried onions, maple syrup, all of the above or whatever you want. I love chicken, onions, bacon and spinach all mixed together.
Good and easy.

roboppy / March 12, 2011 10:57 PM

Meegan: That sounds awesome; I may have to try that. Bought more brussels sprouts last night!

Sandy: Honey!...damn, I want to try that too.

serena: Maple syrup..I WANT THAT TOO. MUST ADD SUGAAAR.

Kristin: Ahh, I haven't made it with onions; I should add some in!

C: Mmmm, baked sweet potato with whatever. I haven't baked any sort of potato in forever, sounds good!

Nindi / March 13, 2011 4:09 PM

i do another variation of brussels sprouts, i just boil them for 20 minutes until they're soft, then either add some ready made pesto sauce, or use soy sauce then sprinkle with fried onions. I eat this when nobody's at home though cos my friends think its weird.

Su-Lin / March 13, 2011 8:25 PM

Topping them with crispy fried onions is genius! My stock is low... I need to make another trip to the Swedish shop.

Michael/S.O.F.A.T. / March 21, 2011 6:43 PM

Bacon and brussels sprouts! Oh, my fav! It's one of my go-to dishes for potlucks and family gatherings. Sub the bacon w/ pork belly (LOVE), and then throw in some kimchi too. Not three ingredients, but... you. will. die. I have a post on this from Jan 2010 (my second post ever) if you want to take a look.

Other two ingredient dishes... have you ever had Chinese stir-fry eggs with tomato? The eggs are almost like scrambled eggs, and the tomatoes make the eggs all hot and bothered.

And if you don't feel like cooking? Cheese + crackers FTW.

Sandra / March 22, 2011 6:57 AM

... I make em exactly like you, with one tiny difference: bacon, fried onions, walnuts >>> heaven =D

Throw the walnuts in the pan, when you crisp up the bacon.

Other two ingredients meals: vegetables cooked and drowned in butter in the end :-) And you can always sprinkle some parmiggiano on them :)
nom-nom-nom ...

roboppy / March 22, 2011 11:55 PM

Nindi: Pesto is awesome!...I'd totally eat Brussels sprouts with pesto.

Su-Lin: I think I've got another bag of fried onions left. I can make Kåre bring me more, BWAHAHAHA.

Michael: Mm, pork belly would be awesome. I don't think I've ever actually bought pork belly before, just eaten it in restaurants. I've never made Chinese stir fried egg and tomato, but I've had it before. Nice homey dish, yeah! I should try that.

Sandra: Nuts with the Brussels sprouts is a good idea. Thanks for the suggestion!

Claire / April 14, 2011 11:43 PM

you can just roast the brussels sprouts in the pan or oven with parm, also good. We follow the serious eats recipe.

Chelsey B. / April 29, 2011 11:37 AM

Brussel sprouts and bacon is already delicious, but adding those fried onions.. yum!!
I've seen some good recipes for this dish, but your picture made my mouth water. You should consider entering it some recipe contests. I know Just A Pinch has a great featured recipe section on their website.

Take care!
-- Chelsey

Rose Garden / May 17, 2011 5:23 AM

Topping them with crispy fried onions is really wonderful and excellent! Great for weekends meals! Brussels sprouts and bacon is really breath taking meal! : )

jamie hemming / July 12, 2011 6:35 PM

Sprouts! To get thr best out of sprouts you need to buy them in winter, on the vine (?) and leave them outside for a day or two so the frost can get to them, it gives then a wonderful nuttier flavour...can't have a proper Christmas dinner without some frost flavoured sprouts!

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