The Genesis of the Least Popular Thanksgiving Dish
Getting underway, let’s trace our steps back in time when the first Thanksgiving was happening. I did a bit of researching, a few fact-checking lunches with my ever-brilliant progeny, Nolan and Iris, and even had an intense stare-down with my Maine Coon cat, Bella (she’s quite the history buff). What I found was rather intriguing. Thanksgiving, as we know it, wasn't always the cornucopia of deliciousness that our modern gastronomic sensibilities have grown to love. Those Plymouth pilgrims and indigenous people didn't exactly whip up a marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole or cranberry sauce out of a can. Although the historical details are somewhat sketchy, they likely had an array of wildfowl, venison, fish, and cornbread - a far cry from our current Thanksgiving menu.
There's always that one dish!
Fast forward to today's typical Thanksgiving feast; you'll find turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, the variable celebration of sweet potatoes, some form of cranberry addition, pumpkin pie, and probably an apple pie (for those pumpkin denialists). However, among these culinary endeavors, there's always that one dish that doesn't live up to popularity. The one dish that, despite my best attempts to grimace through the meal, has kids sliding it to their corners of the plate (a maneuver mastered by my little Iris) and adults quickly changing the subject when asked to pass it around. Yes, you've guessed it - the much-loathed Brussels sprouts!
Why Brussels Sprouts Fall Short
Now Brussels sprouts seem benign enough, right? I too wondered why these miniature cabbages get a particularly bad rap, especially during Thanksgiving festivities. The truth lies in how these little green orbs are prepared. Brussels sprouts have a natural bitterness, a characteristic I find quite relatable some mornings after wrangling kids for school while simultaneously being Bella’s moving climbing sofa. When not cooked properly, this bitterness becomes overwhelming, leaving it right on top of the list of the least-loved Thanksgiving dishes.
Turning the Tables on Brussels Sprouts
Persistence pays, they say, so I thought why not give Brussels sprouts a shot? A chef at heart, I enfolded my kitchen with an adventurous spirit, much to the horror of my Golden retriever, Max, who’d prefer a predictable environment that guarantees punctual meal times. To offset the innate bitterness of the veggie, a harmonization of flavors was necessary. A lacing of honey and brown sugar, a spritz of lemon juice, and sautées them on high heat. To take it a notch above, I introduced bacon to the mix (When in doubt, add bacon!).
Brussels Sprouts – A Thanksgiving Redemption
With a renewed hope, I presented these innovative Brussels sprouts to the jury. Nolan took the first bite (bless him!) and his facial expression projected a promising future for these undervalued veggies. Iris, ever the dramatist, put on a show of considering numerous factors before giving it a thumbs up. The result? Our least popular Thanksgiving dish became a star attraction, and I've been assigned with the task of preparing Brussels sprouts for every future Thanksgiving meal. So, the least popular Thanksgiving dish you'd cooked? Not anymore!
Tips for Making Your Brussels Sprouts Shine
This newfound glory for Brussels sprouts isn't restricted to my kitchen alone. You too can turn around your Thanksgiving dish from dismal to delightful. Like reselling a quirky old armchair by simply throwing an irresistibly fuzzy throw blanket on it, or like Bella, my Maine Coon, manipulating us all into an extra feeding (more power to her); sometimes, all you need is a new perspective. High flame and honey can draw out the sweetness, balancing the bitterness. Adding other ingredients like nuts or pungent cheese (blue cheese or pecorino) can offer additional flavor dimensions. A generous seasoning job is a must. And lastly, don’t forget to pay attention to the final presentation, as we eat with our eyes first!