There are so Many Methods for this Veggie Madness
For almost as many years as I can remember, I have had an affinity for preparing roasted vegetables as a side dish. (If reading, my kids are probably nodding their heads affirmatively right now.) For some Chefs & their veggies, they might turn to steaming, stewing, sautéing, frying or even gratins. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I was writing menus for events or clients on a regular basis I used all these techniques as well. At home, I would also treat vegetables to many of these other methods regularly … BUT, I suspect that if I went back, looked & then took count, roasting has kind of been my main vegetable “go-to” for years (besides salads, perhaps). I have spent some time thinking about why. Here’s what I got…
Roasting to Simply Honor the Vegetable
At the heart, roasting for me renders the vegetable cooked yet it doesn’t really alter it. It still tastes like whatever it started out as but yet, just a little elevated or enhanced by the play with some oil, salt & heat. There’s no cheesy sauce, water or buttery emulsion masking the flavor of said vegetable. Now, here is where I will lose many of you “non-veggie eaters”. You know who you are – broccoli isn’t eaten outside of that cheesy-broccoli bake your sweet aunt brings to the holiday party. Or, maybe you’ve had sautéed mushrooms & thought they were grand on a steak or fried zucchini with ranch with your chicken sandwich? And you eat green beans in that wonderful Campbell’s casserole at Thanksgiving. Yum, right? Well, yes, mostly (Chef *sigh*), and in the right setting, but since you could sub many vegetables in all these dishes & not really have the dish taste any different, you get my meaning?
Maybe you think you (or your spouse, or kids) don’t really like vegetables so when you DO eat them you stick to those creamy, saucy & masked versions? I will tell you that I have honestly had way more people, upon eating a simple medley of roasted root vegetables say, “If I could make vegetables like this, we would eat more” When they find out how simple it is, they are shocked. I have (honestly) made many a “I hate ____” person into an “Oh, these are great! My mom didn’t cook them like this” person than I can count. Try roasting simple biased-cut carrot coins tossed in a little oil & seasoned with salt, pepper & a dash of ginger (or even apple pie spice) …the appearance will reel them in & the flavor will grab ‘em!
Is There Even a Technique Involved?
…. Or aka, are you just “throwing something in the oven” is the real question you mean to ask! It makes sense. The answer is both Yes & No. Don’t be a hater. Stay with me! Yes, the vegetables are done in the oven but no, it’s not necessarily the easiest way to cook – there is a technique to it but learn it & you will come back to it again & again.
Of all the methods listed (2 paragraphs) above, roasting it the only “dry” cooking method. The others involve water or other liquid approached to getting the vegetable to a cooked state. Traditionally roasting was done over open flame, now we have ovens for to replace fires. Many confuse baking & roasting. Here is the easy way to distinguish the two – baking is for foods that aren’t’ already a solid food (cake batter & cookie dough) and roasting is for whole foods like meat & vegetables.
The technique of roasting includes a few important nuances you will want to pay heed to. These nuances are temperature, use of oil or fat, uniform size of vegetable (whole or cut), stirring them during cooking & (possibly) equipment. To make it very simple, and for the sake of this recipe, you use a (cut in half) vegetable tossed lightly with oil, placed in the oven, stirred a few times to ensure even ‘doneness’ and as for equipment today, a sheet pan while suffice
Can I Roast Any Vegetable?
Nope. But, if I even think it might even be good, I have tried it! Probably more vegetables than not can be prepared with some level of roasting – but, alas no, not all! I wouldn’t roast an avocado or leafy green (although oven crisp kale “chips” might be a topic for another story!) or tiny spring peas … yet more vegetables than you think will with stand this technique of preparation. Me, I most often roast baby (of cut up pieces of) potatoes, carrots, onion, eggplant, asparagus, sweet potato pieces, squashes, beets, tomatoes, whole corn and yes, Brussels sprouts! This is not a definitive list & all of them cannot be done together at the same time. For example, while tomatoes roast well, they also roast fast so they have to be added at the end. Just head to the internet, you can find many as many types of vegetables to roast as you can find days of the month!
You may have been reading wondering where the whole “eat your vegetables” health message is. Not today, but it’s there, under the surface. I will just save it for another day & hope that learning this simple yet wonderful preparation method for veggies will just have you begging for more & save me that spiel altogether!
Collect these Items (aka… The “MISE”)
- 1lb of Brussels sprouts – wash, cut stem end off & cut in half end to end. Let the first outside leaf-layer fall off & discard but any other leaves that fall as you cut, collect & put in bowl to toss & on try (They make some of the tastiest part!)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)- plain or garlic (OR *Bacon rendering)
- Coarse Kosher Salt & Cracked Pepper (I encourage you to experiment with different ‘seasonings’ later, but the first time it’s good to know where your base is!)
- One Lemon – cut in quarters end to end (sub- juicy Lime or Blood Orange would nice next time ?)
- OPTIONAL – 4 Slices of thick Apple wood Smoked Bacon – cut into lardons (tiny little cubes) & cooked off on sheet pan – saving the rendered fat* & the bacon pieces separately You can always sub- pancetta if your inner gourmand strikes but you wouldn’t have the rendered!
- Pre-heat oven to 400. Foil line a baking sheet (if you wish).
- Place washed & cut sprouts in a bowl & drizzle lightly with the EVOO, salt & pepper. Toss to coat. If you feel more comfortable measuring, use about 1 T. (more if needed) IMPORTANT – with roasting, you want the vegetable covered lightly, not dripping in, fat/oil or they won’t caramelize & will be greasy (not the goal).
- On the baking sheet dump the sprouts & evenly spread out. Hit lightly with salt & pepper again if needed. IMPORTANT nuance #2 – do not overcrowd. Use 2 sheets if necessary. You do not want them to start “steaming” & get soggy vs. crisp. Roast at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on how your oven bakes (some are not quite calibrated). IMPORTANT nuance #3 – STIR them at least one time, probably twice. Close the oven while stirring so as not to lose as much oven temp. Do not be afraid if the little lost leaves that fell off of the sprouts are looking charred … they are delicious like that!
- Remove from oven & now, the lemon – I like to use one wedge (a quarter of a lemon) to squeeze over them, toss & place in serving bowl. You can omit this if you wish. I serve the other lemon wedges alongside if anyone wants more. IF you used bacon, now you sprinkle the bits on top – magnifique!!
- The Consumption: This is the easy part! You will want to serve them fairly quickly after they come out of the oven (so plan out your timing with the rest of your meal) because they are small, so they cool much faster than, say, a baked potato! Just plate them next to your favorite grilled meat, pan-seared fish or pasta dish….and enjoy!
P.S. & HINT…These Brussels Sprouts go perfectly with my first recipe post (Dreamy, Creamy Mushroom Alfredo …)
** Standard Chef Melissa Disclaimers
Ingredients: For the sake of keeping the recipe simple & easy to read, I may not list brands, etc. I (almost) always recommend using the very best ingredients you can find/afford with regards to certain elements of the recipe ( where it makes a difference) & will denote this with (* )when that’s the case. In the absence of an (*) you can just use standard products/brands. Food Safety: First, if not already aware, please educate yourself on the basics of food safety with regards to (but not limited to) cross contamination, cleaning & proper temperatures (especially meats as “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.” … )