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by meg

I love Brussels sprouts. I know that to some, this will make anything I say hereafter suspect. I know that I live in a country where people love to hate Brussels sprouts. It's like some kind of horrible vibe that starts resonating in childhood and continues into adulthood. Long after we've stopped caring if our foods touch each other on the plate and preferring our sandwiches with the crusts torn from the bread, Brussels sprouts are still really uncool for a lot of people.

Part of it is that, in spite of how adorable those little mouse cabbages are, they contain the most sulfur of any of the brassicas. They're so sulfuric that they can perfume your entire refrigerator with a noxious rotting cabbage smell. No one likes that. I don't even like that, and I like Brussels sprouts.

They key to many things in life is being able to look past flaws. They're everywhere. Everything and everyone is flawed. This is part of why perfectionism can be debilitating--nothing will ever be perfect, and trying to make it so is Sisyphean. Sure, you can keep pushing that boulder uphill, but it's always going to roll right back down. Don't let it steamroll you. This advice comes from someone who used to organize her closet by color and who had to separate her Halloween candy into different types before eating even one piece.

But I maintain that, imperfections and all, Brussels sprouts can be delicious. I won't belabor the point--if you really don't like Brussels sprouts and you've given them a fair shake, you're allowed to not like them. I will permit that.

This particular Brussels sprout dish is not life-changing, but it is pretty delicious. It's comforting, creamy, toasted, and fabulous. As fabulous as a little cabbage can be, anyway. It can also very easily be made vegan, in case you or someone you love is of that persuasion. In fact, when I made a vegan version of this, I really couldn't tell. I know people say that all the time, but I'm serious. You'll never know.

Other Brussels sprout sides you might like: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Wilted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple, Brussels Sprout Slaw with Spiced Yogurt Dressing

Brussels Sprout Gratin
Serves 6

To make this vegan, simply use vegetable oil instead of butter and substitute canned coconut milk (not light) for the cream--it's equally delicious this way.

To make a deluxe, no-holds-barred version of this dish for special occasions that require decadence, cook 3 slices bacon in the skillet until crisp, then drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, then proceed with the recipe, stirring the crumbled bacon into the cooked Brussels sprouts right before topping with the bread crumbs.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large skillet, melt over medium heat:
           2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Add and sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes:
           2 large shallots or 1 medium onion (about 6 to 8 ounces), chopped
Add and cook until wilted and bright green, about 5 minutes:
           1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
Stir in:
           3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
           Pinch nutmeg
Remove from the heat, then stir in:
           1/2 cup heavy cream
For the crumb topping, heat in a small skillet over medium heat:
           2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Add and stir frequently until deep golden brown and nutty-smelling, about 5 to 8 minutes:
           1/3 cup bread crumbs or panko
           1/3 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts or almonds
           1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
           1/4 teaspoon black pepper
If you sautéed your Brussels sprouts in an oven-proof skillet (no plastic handles!), simply sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the cooked sprouts in the skillet--why dirty two pans when one will suffice? Otherwise, transfer the Brussels sprouts to a small baking dish (an 11x7-inch baking dish will work here, as will any smallish gratin dish or even an 8-inch cake pan), top with the bread crumb mixture, and bake until heated through and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.

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