On Brussels Sprouts Leaves & Holiday Cheer

In the last week or so I’ve been promoting side dishes for holiday dinners, including these Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Leaves. I first made this dish for Thanksgiving four years ago. and was super pleased with how it turned out. On my Facebook page, I did warn my gentle readers that making this dish is “a bit fiddly.” Several of you shared the post and others also mentioned they were going to try it. What can I say … you’ve warmed the cockles of my heart.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Leaves with Bacon | © lifethroughthekitchenwindow.com

As with most things, though, it may be that the mists of time have blurred the experience somewhat. How is it that things look so much easier in retrospect?

My experience this afternoon brought into sharp relief the fact that, yes, these Brussels sprouts leaves are definitely a holiday type of dish. Trust me, you don’t want to give anyone the impression that you’re ever going to do this on a Wednesday night after you get home from work. Ever.

As I sat at my kitchen dining bar this afternoon, using a paring knife to try to prise delicate sprouts leaves away from their surprisingly tough cores, it occurred to me that any of you doing the same right about now just might be sending messages my way, sotto voice or perhaps with more volume. And I suspect those messages might not be of the happy ho-ho holiday cheer sort, but rather, muttered curses and imprecations.

For, unless Brussels sprouts have changed dramatically since 2013, separating their leaves from their grasping cores is no easy feat. In the harsh light of this snowstorming day, I’d have to say that “a bit fiddly” simply doesn’t do justice to the challenge involved. Yes, I asked myself more than once why I thought this was a good idea. Now that I’m done, and the sprout leaves have been rinsed and are soaking in some salt water (something my mother always did for brassicas) I remain convinced that the end result is worth the effort involved. Was I as convinced 30 minutes ago? I cannot tell a lie: I was not.

Perhaps this task really was easier in 2013, because my daughter Jenn was at my side and we were able to converse (and commiserate) our way through two pounds of sprouts. It might also have helped that on my other side was a glass of wine to which I turned frequently for succour. Not that I would advocate drinking alcohol while using sharp knives. Know your limits, people. Today, alas, I carried out this job alone, but with the soothing benefit of my extensive Christmas playlist. I thought about having a glass of wine, but decided not to chance it, as I’ve been on somewhat of a personal injury marathon recently. (Time for another ice bag for my knee … mock skating through the kitchen to entertain my granddaughters, as I did yesterday, is the latest in a list of no longer approved activities for me.)

So I’m having my wine now, while I write this. Because we all know there’s nothing dangerous about blogging and drinking wine.

No worries, my deepest, darkest feelings will not be flowing your way in this post, as it’s a small glass, and the writing will have ceased before the glass is empty.

Oh, before I go … another tip: in addition to companionship, some wine to sip (at your own risk) and soothing music in the background … do this task in that lulling time in the afternoon when the turkey is in the oven, and the last-minute rush to get dinner on the table is a few hours away. In other words, be relaxed and not rushed. I couldn’t imagine doing this in a hurry. And if you don’t have the time, but want the same type of effect, thinly shred the sprouts on a mandoline or with your best chef’s knife (not rushing, not drinking, and using the safety guard on the mandoline … those blades are sharp!). The effect won’t be as “high holiday” but will still be above and beyond “weeknight dinner.”

So yes, prepping this dish is fiddly, it’s tedious, and it takes longer than you ever imagine it would. But when you serve this dish and hear the oohs and aahs, you’ll realize how worth it all the effort was. I mean, just look at that pretty photo above. … Oh dear, it has the watermark of my former blog name on it. I’d fix that, but I have to go peel two rutabagas. May the kitchen gods watch over me.

And yes, my very best wishes to you for a Merry Christmas or whatever winter holiday you celebrate. May the new year bring you much good food and easier to execute recipes than this one. Cheers!



  1. You gave me a real smile reading this post. I’ll have to remember that Brussels sprout leaves are fiddly but well worth the effort…the final dish does look pretty. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Marlene.

    • Thanks, Karen! Things aren’t always as easy to do as we remember them, lol. But this year’s sprouts leaves turned out great, so well worth the effort! I hope you had a lovely Christmas too — Happy New Year!

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