Lighter bacon Brussels sprouts without loss of flavor, texture

Lighten up Brussels sprouts with bacon allows for a crispy texture of the Brussels sprouts without frying. (AP Photo)

When did Brussels sprouts go from healthy food our moms couldn’t get us to choke down to trendy gastropub fare? Answer – the instant someone realized that the tender little sprouts could be fried in bacon grease.

While the Brussels sprout is incredibly nutritious — as one might expect from the world’s cutest little cabbage – letting it float around in bubbling smoky-salty bacon fat until frizzled and crispy may offset some of the nutritional elan of the veggie. But what would fall be without some tasty Brussels and bacon on the table, especially at Thanksgiving?

So I’ve created a lightened version of the favorite that got my kids (and husband) excited about the vegetable in the first place. And they loved it. And I’m calling this one a true victory, because they are not an easy Brussels sprouts crowd.

The secret is three-fold. First, to get a crispy texture without frying, I roast the sprouts at high heat. I also heat the baking sheet before putting the sprouts on it so they sizzle when they touch it. That’s where the great texture is coming from. The second secret is to cook the bacon separately, turning it into a tangy vinaigrette-type sauce that you toss the sprouts in after roasting. The bacon tastes stronger that way.

Finally, I use a hefty dose of smoked paprika, which ups the bacon-y smoky goodness with nary a calorie to add.

LIGHTENED UP BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 slices bacon, cut into small strips or cubes

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 425 F. Set a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat.

Cut the sprouts into quarters, then place them in a medium bowl. Toss with the oil, half of the smoked paprika, and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Remove the hot baking sheet from oven and line with kitchen parchment (be careful!). Scatter the sprouts on hot pan, then roast until tender on the inside and crispy dark golden brown on the outside, 13 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it turns crispy. Add the shallots, apple and remaining smoked paprika, then cook for another 5 minutes, or until soft. If the bacon has not given off enough fat to saute with, you may need to add a teaspoon of olive oil. Increase the heat to high, then add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir to deglaze the pan (don’t have your face too close to the pan or you will inhale quite an intense whiff of vinegar).

Add the roasted Brussels sprouts to the skillet and stir to coat. Transfer to a serving dish.

Nutrition information per serving: 120 calories; 50 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 160 mg sodium; 15 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 4 g protein.

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