roasted maple Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

I hope everyone had a lovely and restful Thanksgiving!  Mine was very nice, though went by far too quickly as it always does.  The good news is I will be reliving the holiday in my posts in the coming weeks as I share the recipes and pictures from my meal, starting with this dish.

I knew I wanted to incorporate chestnuts into the meal somehow, partially because I’ve always been intrigued by them and partially because I wanted to right the wrong I made several years ago when I cooked them with acorn squash but neglected to peel them before serving…  No one knew quite what to do with them but gamely attempted to crack them with their teeth and get to the meat in the center.  Oops.  This year I roasted them and then peeled them before taking any further steps.

Scoring the chestnuts with an x on the flat part and then roasting dry on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes did the trick.  The shells started to peel back making it easy to get the meaty centers out.  Lesson learned.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without Brussels sprouts, at least not at my house.  There have been a few years that I haven’t made them in favor of something other green-vegetable sidedish and there were complaints, so this year I brought a new iteration of them back to the table.

In this version, pancetta is pan-fried with a little olive oil and then tossed with the Brussels sprouts and pre-shelled chestnuts.  I added a little extra olive oil to the ordeal so that they didn’t dry out and then generously salted and peppered them and roasted them for about 20 minutes in the oven.  After they’re done roasting you toss them with a little maple syrup and serve.  They were a big hit, even with the children at the table and who ever heard of kids eating their Brussels sprouts?!

Roasted Maple Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Chestnuts (recipe by Laura Pensiero, found in House Beautiful magazine)

  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh roasted chestnuts, approximately ¾ pound in shell (substitute peeled, frozen chestnuts if desired)
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved (quartered, if large)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roasting removes the shell and richens the flavor of chestnuts. Using the tip of a knife, cut a small X in the flat side of their outer shell, then spread them out on a baking pan. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes; you will see the skin curling away and the chestnut taking on a golden color. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. The shells can easily be removed. Set aside the chestnuts.

Heat the olive oil in a large (approximately three- to four-quart) sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until it renders its fat and is lightly browned. Add the chestnuts, toss or stir to combine, then cook for about one minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, tossing or stirring, for about two minutes.

Transfer vegetables to a rimmed baking pan or roasting pan; they should spread out into one slightly overlapping layer. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the upper third of the oven, stirring once halfway through until the vegetables are golden and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Use the tip of a sharp paring knife to test the doneness at the base of a Brussels sprout; it should insert easily.

In a small bowl or cup, stir together the water, maple syrup, and cayenne. Pour the mixture into the hot baking pan, using a wooden spoon to dissolve any browned bits. Return pan to oven and cook another five minutes. Serve hot or warm, family-style, in a festive bowl.

brussels sprouts and bacon, oh my

It’s no secret that I love Brussels sprouts.  So last weekend when I found a new recipe for them in the March issue of Bon Apetit and said recipe involved bacon?  Well, it was a no-brainer what I’d be fixing that evening.

In addition to loving this particular vegetable I am also a huge fan of one-pot cooking.  The components for this dish are all done in the same skillet so there is less clean-up afterwards.  Awesomeness.

The pungency of the Brussels sprouts mixed with the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the raisins and shallots, and the kick of apple cider vinegar at the end results in a beautiful marriage.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the parsnips and meatloaf for last Sunday’s meal.  I hope that you will enjoy them too!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins (from March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon
  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts (about 1 lb), trimmed, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Let cool.  Coarsely crumble.

While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes.  Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brussels sprouts are your friends

Why do Brussels sprouts get such a bad rap?  It was always the food used as a threat by mothers in sitcoms when I was growing up so I think as a result I just never even tried one until I was an adult because I just assumed they would be gross.  Boy, was that assumption wrong!  They’re delicious.

I’ve been making them as a side dish at Thanksgiving for the past five or so years and they are almost always a hit.  (I say almost always because small children and my Grandma Molly are not big fans, but that just means more for the rest of us!)  I usually roast them until they get all brown and caramelized but a few years ago I ate them in a gratin at a fancy restaurant in New York and was inspired to seek out a recipe for this cooking method.

The recipe I found also involves cauliflower which is another vegetable that can sometimes get an undeserved bad rap.  Brussels sprouts and cauliflower smothered in cream and Parmesan cheese?  Yes, please!

This gratin also gets a crunchy topping courtesy of bread crumbs and toasted pine nuts.  This dish just might make it to my Thanksgiving table this year!

I will be tagging all Thanksgiving-worthy recipes as such to help you with your menu planning, so check back closer to the date if you are in need of some ideas.

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Gratin (found at

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered lengthwise through core
  • 1 1 1/2-to 1 3/4-pound head of cauliflower, trimmed, cut into small florets
  • 2 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 11/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Fill large bowl with ice and cold water. Cook brussels sprouts in large pot of generously salted boiling water 2 minutes. Add cauliflower to same pot; cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer. Drain. Transfer vegetables to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

Combine cream, shallots, and sage in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture is reduced to 21/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; stir until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool. Stir in pine nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; arrange half of vegetables in dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Arrange remaining vegetables evenly over, then sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Pour cream mixture evenly over. DO AHEAD: Breadcrumb topping and gratin can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover gratin with foil. Bake covered 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle breadcrumb topping over and bake uncovered 15 minutes longer.