If the Brussels sprouts are still on the stem, then carefully cut them off with a sharp knife, or give them a sharp twist. Remove one or two of the outside leaves and cut any of the very big sprouts in half so that they cook evenly.
Brussels sprouts don't actually need to be cooked. When finely sliced on a mandoline and tossed with a simple vinaigrette, sprouts make a great salad base. A few wafer-thin Brussels sprout leaves also make a delicate garnish, either raw or quickly blanched in salted water.
To blanch, cook in salted, boiling water for approximately 3 minutes then refresh in iced water.
Sprouts are great for making a speedy purée, as Paul Foster demonstrates with his poached duck which sits on a Brussels sprout purée.
One of the quickest and simplest ways to cook sprouts, though, is to halve and then stir-fry them.
Brussels sprouts can be braised and used in a gratin. When slow-cooked, the flavour often mellows so it's common for other tastes and textures to be introduced – perhaps a creamy mustard sauce in a gratin or smoky bacon when braising.
Brussels sprouts are most often served with turkey or goose as part of Christmas dinner but their distinct flavour makes them a great partner for game birds, red meat and fish – as demonstrated in Marcus Wareing's recipe for Venison, chocolate, fig, turnip and Brussels sprouts or Shaun Rankin's Roast turbot with sprout leaves.
The most common Christmas flavour pairings are salty bacon and chestnuts but don't be afraid to experiment. Their robust, cabbage-like flavour means that sprouts go well with soy sauce in a stir-fry or with miso in a broth. Sprouts can also be curried and pickled and any leftovers make a killer bubble and squeak (see Graham Campbell's Turkey version for Boxing Day inspiration.)
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