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Brussels sprouts the West Town Tavern way

The tavern is famous, at least within Chicago, for its sprouts. They deserve a wider audience and britishfoodinamerica feels obliged to help spread the word. This is not the easiest sprout recipe but it is one of the best. For four.



-1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed of ugly bits and split down the spine
-2 teaspoons coarse salt (we like Maldon)
-2 Tablespoon olive oil
-more salt, and some pepper
-water, but only as and if necessary
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Put some cold water and ice in a big bowl; you will want to shock the sprouts in it following Step 2.
  2. Bring a big pot of water to a boil with the 2 teaspoons of salt and blanch the sprouts until barely tender, usually no more than 2 or 3 minutes; a fork should meet a little resistance.
  3. Immediately drain the sprouts and plunge them into the cold cold water. Once they cool, shake them out in a colander to get rid of as much water as possible without mutilating the sprouts.
  4. Put the olive oil in a skillet (cast iron is ideal; more timid souls will want nonstick for this recipe) until it shimmers (you want it quite hot but do not want to burn it), then add the sprouts and shake the skillet, tossing and turning the sprouts until they begin to color.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, season the sprouts and continue to stir them (they want to burn; you must deny their wish) until they soften and turn a deep gold all over, or at least all over the cut sides, usually in about 10 minutes. At this point they should be tender.
  6. If not, reduce the heat to low and sprinkle the sprouts with the minimum amount of water required to keep them from scorching.
  7. Add the butter to the sprouts, increase the heat to medium high, and fry the sprouts until the butter turns light brown and, if you are lucky, the edges of the sprouts begin to crisp. Serve as quick as you can.



- Credit where it is due; this is pretty much the original recipe from the West Town Tavern cookbook (see the notes to ‘braised short ribs a Chicago way’ in the practical) presented in the customary britishfoodinamerica format.

- This is not an easy recipe; in fact, it is a bit of a high wire act. The key is high heat. Without it, the sprouts will not caramelize, their sugars will not pop to the surface and the point of the recipe will be lost.  The risk is high heat too; it is easy to burn the sprouts, when they will become bitter.

- Best to have everything else ready to serve once you have completed Step 3.