Brussels sprouts are polarizing. You either really hate them or protectively feel the need to defend them against the haters. Those who hate Brussels sprouts aren’t complete monsters – the little sprouts can smell really bad and sulfuric if you overcook them and especially if you overcook them by boiling. But as any of the protective defenders will tell you, you don’t have to subject them to death by boiling, and they are really quite delicious when you open your arms to them.
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So if overcooking and boiling are no-nos,
How should you eat Brussels sprouts?
Glad you asked because you’ve got lots of options. Roasted Brussels sprouts are usually my go-to come middle of fall. Roasting Brussels sprouts brings out their sweetness and gives you good char and crunch.
Another way to prepare Brussels sprouts is to saute them. You can either cut them in half and saute them that way, or you can thinly slice them and make a type of hash. This again, allows them to brown and caramelize and this sweetness tames down the inherent bitterness in Brussels sprouts.
You can also not cook Brussels sprouts at all. In fact, my new favorite way to eat Brussels is to shave them super thin and eat them raw in a salad. The easiest way to do this is with a mandoline. It makes incredibly quick work of shaving the Brussels sprouts, and you know you’re cutting them uniformly.
I’m all about my Kitchen Aid mandoline that sits sturdily on its own on my counter and also has a handguard that works well for cutting larger vegetables. It makes slicing onions for homemade French onion soup incredibly approachable. You can also invest in a handheld mandoline for quick jobs. It’s less expensive and also less bulky. It would be perfect for this shaved Brussels sprout salad or something like this vegetable tartine.
If you don’t have a mandoline – fret not! You can definitely shave these Brussels sprouts the old fashioned way. It will take a little longer and your Brussels sprouts will be a little thicker and less uniform – a perfect excuse to call this a “Rustic” Shaved Brussels Sprout salad if I’ve ever heard one.
Components of Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
So now that we’ve got the most important ingredient – the thinly shredded Brussels sprouts – it’s time to focus on everything else that goes into the salad. Brussels sprouts are kind of like kale in that they can be bitter when eaten raw, and kind of like cabbage in that they can be tough when eaten raw. There are a couple of important things to do to combat this.
First, we add fat and heat. For this salad, it happens to come in the form of crispy, rendered pancetta. It’s not like crispy pancetta needed another job to do besides being delicious, but here it is doing double duty. Something fatty helps to balance out the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts. If you want to geek out over what exactly bitterness is and why it works with fatty foods, give this interview a listen or a read: https://www.splendidtable.org/story/dont-eliminate-bitterness-balance-it-with-fat-and-salt
The warm and salty pancetta also helps to slightly soften the shaved Brussels sprouts. The salad doesn’t become wilty, but rather just the perfect amount of tender yet crunchy. The rendered fat from the pancetta coats the Brussels sprouts, very similar to a warm bacon vinaigrette.
With most of the dressing already done, all we have to do now is punch up the salad with some sweetness and acidity. A healthy squeeze of lemon juice along with lots of lemon zest brighten everything up, and sliced honeycrisp apples add even more crunch and lots of sweetness.
I like to give this shaved Brussels sprouts salad some contrast by adding in celery root for an earthy crunch and fennel for a sharp, crisp addition. Toasted pepitas finish everything off. I’ve been known to throw in a handful or two of dried cranberries or raisins into this salad as well and have never hated the result.
It’s best to serve this salad within an hour or so after making it. Since you dress the salad as you make it, you want to serve it pretty quickly for maximum crunch. If you do have leftovers after dinner, you can certainly save them in the fridge for the next day, but the salad will be a little softer than when you first prepared it.
And that’s it! Super crunchy, light but oh so very fall-like, equal parts healthy and delicious shaved Brussels sprouts salad.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
This fall salad is crispy, crunchy, and addictive made with shaved Brussels sprouts, sweet honeycrisp apples, and warm pancetta
- 1 lb brussels sprouts very thinly sliced
- 6 oz cubed pancetta
- ¾ cup celery root cut into matchsticks
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
- 1 cup thinly sliced honeycrisp apples about 2 medium-sized apples
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- ¼ cup toasted pepitas
In a medium skillet over low heat, cook the pancetta until browned and crispy
While the pancetta cooks, shave the Brussles sprouts using a mandoline at the 1/16 setting
Immediately after the pancetta cooks, toss it and any fat that has rendered with it with the shaved Brussels sprouts. The heat helps to soften the sprouts
Add the celery root, fennel, and apples to the Brussels sprouts and pancetta in a large bowl
Add olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the bowl as well and toss to combine
Toast the pepitas in a skillet over low heat for 2-3 minutes and sprinkle them over top of the salad. Serve immediately