I have something of a track record of liking things everyone else hates. (Incessant rain… disco… plain yogurt… writing proofs in geometry…) Not sure if it's an instinctive love for the underdog or just a visible demonstration of my out-of-stepness.
Anyway, in that vein, Brussels sprouts have been my most favorite, deeply hearted vegetable since I was knee-high to a locust. Steamed, sauteed, whatever… just pass the slightly bitter brassica, please, mmkaythanks.
Imagine my astonishment, then upon the occasion of my marriage, to discover that my chosen life partner did not like Brussels sprouts. Not only did not like them, but would not countenance them upon his dinner table. This was a bit daunting, yes, but I persevered and finally discovered (via, if memory serves, Cook's Illustrated magazine) a recipe that was so tempting, so well balanced, such a fine combination of otherwise irresistible flavors that–lo and behold–it rendered Brussels sprouts into something Jim would eat. With no sign of reluctance whatsoever.*
He's branched out a bit since then, too–we've been devouring roasted Brussels sprouts whenever we can get our little hands upon them for several years now. And as of last night, we can add this soup to the repertoire of Ways Jim Will Eat Brussels Sprouts. Huzzah. (Bacon never hurts.)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Soup (With Bacon)
Serves eight, maybe, theoretically, but there was not a drop left at last night's end and I sure didn't get any seconds.
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, bottoms cut off and quartered
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
A few generous pinches of salt
Ground black pepper
1/4 lb good thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, minced, plus another 1/3 cup unminced and set aside
6 cups stock
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or cream
More salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425. On a large baking sheet, toss together Brussels sprouts, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast, shaking once or twice, for about 10 minutes, or until sprouts are lightly toasted. Remove from oven and set aside. Fish out and discard (or eat) any little loose bits of leaves that have become overdone. (They'll make the soup too bitter if you leave them in.)
In a cold soup pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside; pour off all but 2 Tbsp fat. Return to medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until barely tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced pine nuts; cook, stirring frequently, a couple minutes more.
Add Brussels sprouts mixture and stock to pot. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and cook until sprouts are very tender and everything smells fabulous, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small, preferably cast iron skillet, toast whole pine nuts over medium heat until fragrant and just turning color. (They will taste quite nasty if you burn them. Be careful.)
Working in batches, puree soup until smooth in a blender or food processor. (My immersion blender was not gutsy enough for this task; your results may vary.) Return puree to soup pot. Whisk in cream and about 2/3 of reserved bacon. If soup seems a little too thin, as mine did last night, return to a boil and let it reduce for a few minutes. (This would be a fine time to make some toast to have alongside your soup.) Taste and correct salt and pepper if needed.
When soup is sufficiently thickened, stir it well and serve with bacon and whole pine nuts sprinkled overtop. Add a little chopped flat-leaf parsley, if you like–it's up to you.
A fun game: try this recipe on a confirmed Brussels sprouts hater and see what s/he thinks. When rendered unrecognizable via the magic of pureeing, these dear little cabbage-cousins may take someone by entirely pleasant surprise…
* that recipe, in shorthand: trim/quarter Brussels sprouts, steam until barely tender, about 3 minutes. Toast a handful of pine nuts; set aside. Saute some garlic in butter; add sprouts; cook, stirring often, until beginning to caramelize. Stir in pine nuts and enjoy.