Stepchildren, these. They don’t appear at all in The Greens Cookbook and I can find no sprouts in the whole oeuvre of my dear Elizabeth David. Well, to a foodie Brit they would be the veg of infamy, messenger of the great dowdy kitchen GREY of yore. Mrs. David, who was, it seems, something of a femme fatale as well as a gastronomical pioneer storming through the enemy territory of her own country, was a woman of very strong opinions; I don’t think it would have been politic to ask her what she thought of the vegetable under discussion here. Well, they do need a little help — else they might emerge as the “limp discolored pygmy cabbage” M.F.K. Fisher, a good friend of the lowly sprout, often encountered (and I seem to remember such from an ill-advised visit to the Nowhere of a Bloomsbury hash house a bit down from Russell Square). I think I can safely say that, adorned as here, they make quite good – that quite is very English! — entertainment for the palate.
An alternative: steam your sprouts, bisect them, roll ’em in olive oil and breadcrumbs, then bake for 30 minutes, turning them once and adding capers.
Trim the stems of 12 to 15 washed Brussels sprouts per person, cut an X in them so the sprouts cook evenly, then steam the veg until they’re softish but still a lively color.
Now toast several tablespoons of pine nuts (shake them for a minute or more in a small skillet) and fry about 10 little oblongs of thick cut or slab bacon per person. Combine the sprouts with the pine nuts, bacon, and butter accented with marjoram.
AND: You could, of course, bury your sprouts-nuts-bacon in a well-cheesed risotto (see chapter V); in that case you’d want to chop the veg — and sprouto-phobes wouldn’t know what hit them, the combination is so harmonious and pleasant.