Maybe I am being a little hyperbolic, but the sweet-salty-crisp combination of bacon and maple syrup can almost induce euphoria, at least according to unscientific evidence gathered from my dinner guests. I supply detailed make-ahead instructions because you really should think about adding this to a holiday dinner menu. When I serve this at Thanksgiving, the turkey gets jealous. — Rick Rodgers, The Big Book of Sides
American maple syrup is graded according to its color and depth of flavor. Recently, the names of the grades have changed. Grade A Dark (formerly called Grade B), which has a robust flavor and mahogany hue, is my choice for all-purpose syrup for both cooking and pouring over pancakes. In Canada, which supplies about 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup, this syrup is graded Number 2. If I use the lighter, more delicate Amber, I add a few drops of pure maple extract to boost the flavor.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning once, until it is crisp and browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer it to paper towels to drain and cool. Pour the rendered bacon fat into a small bowl and set aside. (The bacon and bacon fat can be cooled, covered separately, and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Reheat the bacon fat in a microwave oven or in a skillet just until melted.)
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sprouts and cook until they turn a brighter shade of green, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse well under cold running water, and drain again. Pat the sprouts dry with paper towels. (The sprouts can be wrapped in dry paper towels, stored in plastic zip-tight bags, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.
Toss the sprouts and bacon fat in a large bowl until coated. Spread the sprouts on the prepared pan. Bake the sprouts, turning them occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Drizzle the sprouts with the syrup and stir to coat them evenly. Return the sprouts to the oven and continue baking, stirring once or twice, until the syrup has reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes more.
Season the sprouts with salt and pepper. Transfer them to a serving dish. Coarsely chop the bacon, sprinkle it over the sprouts, and serve.