Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. People say they hate Brussels sprouts more than any other food, other than lima beans. In both cases, I believe the reason is that the vegetables are so rarely prepared well.
Last year, I went to my dad’s house for Thanksgiving, and this year I’m going to my sister Gail’s. In both instances, my addition to the potluck is these Brussels sprouts. I like that I can prepare them ahead of time and dress them just before serving — without the slightest compromise to their flavor, color, or texture.
We sear our Brussels sprouts so they get nicely browned while maintaining their unique texture and vibrant green color, then we toss them in sherry vinaigrette and top them with breadcrumbs laced with prosciutto and herbs.
Judging by the number of people who absolutely love these, I would say we have converted many a Brussels sprout hater with this preparation. The recipe for the prosciutto breadcrumbs makes about 1 cup, which is more than you will need for this dish, but since it calls for such a variety of herbs, it seems silly to make a smaller portion and have so many herbs leftover — better to have the breadcrumbs leftover. They are delicious sprinkled on any roasted vegetables. If you don’t have time to prepare the breadcrumbs, the Brussels sprouts are still delicious without them.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line a plate with paper towels.
Combine the prosciutto and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the prosciutto is brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the prosciutto to the paper towels to drain.
Add the breadcrumbs to the same pan and toss to coat the breadcrumbs with the oil in the pan. Scatter the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and place them in the oven to toast for 12-15 minutes, until they are light golden brown, stirring them once or twice during cooking time so they brown evenly.
Remove the breadcrumbs from the oven but leave the oven on. Add the prosciutto, chervil, chives, and tarragon to the baking sheet and stir to combine. Return the breadcrumbs to the oven for 10 minutes, stirring them once or twice during that time so they cook evenly, until they are golden brown and crisp. Set them aside to cool to room temperature.
Use the breadcrumbs, or transfer them to an airtight container, and store them at room temperature for up to 2 days. Bring the breadcrumbs to room temperature before using them.
Combine the vinegar, shallots, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside for about 5 minutes to allow the shallots to marinate in the vinegar. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or vinegar, if desired.
Use the vinaigrette or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Bring the vinaigrette to room temperature, whisk to recombine the ingredients, and taste again for seasoning before using.
Put the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl, drizzle them with ½ cup of the olive oil, season with the salt and pepper, and toss to coat with the seasonings. Heat ½ cup of the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until the oil is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 3-4 minutes.
Working in 2 or more batches, place the Brussels sprouts cut side down in a single layer in the oil and sauté them for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown on both sides and tender but not mushy, using tongs to turn the sprouts as they brown. Remove the sprouts to a plate or baking sheet as they finish cooking. When you’ve removed the first batch of sprouts, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and cook another batch.
Repeat until all of the Brussels sprouts are cooked, adding more oil as necessary. You can prepare the Brussels sprouts to this point up to several hours in advance. Transfer them to an airtight container and keep them at room temperature until you are ready to serve them.
When you are ready to serve the Brussels sprouts, drizzle them with the vinaigrette, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over them, and toss to coat the sprouts with the seasonings. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if desired. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving platter or dish, sprinkling each layer of sprouts lightly with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs over the top and serve, serving the remaining breadcrumbs on the side or reserving them for another use.
Serve warm or at room temperature.