Saturday, December 24, 2011


It’s 8:15am on Christmas Eve morning, and I am making the damned Brussels sprouts. This was my mother’s Christmas dinner assignment, her lot in life. No sooner had we unwrapped the presents, polished off breakfast, and poured a second cup of coffee, Mom would abruptly stand up to announce: “It’s time to make the damned Brussels sprouts.”
Mom’s use of the invective did not stem from some Scrooge-like malady. The problem was that the Brussels sprouts –a traditional dish with chestnuts— were somewhat controversial at my family’s Christmas dinner. Of the 40 guests, roughly half were strongly in favor of said Brussels sprout while the others were opposed. Both parties were particularly vocal.

Still, year after year, Mom made the Brussels sprouts and plunked them next to my aunt’s “damned twice baked potatoes.” Once you’ve been assigned to a role in a family, it’s nearly impossible to switch parts.

Since Mom has been gone, I have played the part of the Brussels sprouts.  In an attempt to skirt controversy and update our menu, I have experimented with various other dishes, my favorite of which is Brussels Sprouts Hash with Caramelized Shallots from Bon Appetit. However, this year I felt compelled to go to The Jeanne’s dish.

That’s because, after over forty years of hosting Christmas dinner, my aunt is passing the torch to my cousin Christine.  This is hardly a sad occasion. Christine is a magnificent entertainer and talented interior decorator as well. I’ve loved consulting with her on the menu and various guests. (We like to take in randoms for dinner). I am really looking forward to ushering in the next generation of family Christmases.

Yet, as a child, Christmas at Aunt Pat’s house was not to be believed.  She decorated every crevice of her gorgeous Victorian house, complete with two Christmas trees. There was an endless supply of passed hors d’oeuvres (You know how I feel about those!), three meat entrees, and bowls of chocolate candies strategically placed throughout the house. Because it’s our family, these Dickens-inspired scenes came with a healthy dose of farce. There was the year the cat hopped onto the table and its tale caught fire on one of the candles. Yes, that actually happened.

I once thought these parties were conjured out of air. Of course, that is hardly the case. My Aunt Pat poured countless hours and unbelievable amounts of creative energy into our celebration. Beyond the actual work, opening your home to 40 people for an entire day is a lot to ask. So while it’s hardly enough, I shall make the damned Brussels sprouts. It’s a meager thank you for all of those magical years

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

1 pound of Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 ½ cup beef broth
2 Tbsp of butter
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup cooked or canned chestnuts
Salt, pepper

Put the Brussels sprouts in a pan with the beef broth. Simmer  for about 8 to 10 minutes or until tender; drain. Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan, stirring unti golden. Add the chestnuts and cook until they are slightly brown. Add the sprouts and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes more. Season lightly and serve.


  1. Merry Christmas, Amy & co. (And Jeanne of course).

  2. You too. Show those goyim how Christmas is really done!'

  3. Jeanne,

    Can I suggest a different way to prepare the "damn brussels sprouts". Maybe 75% of your family will like them this way. I eat them like they are going out of style.

    Try baking the brussels sprouts with cubes of butter nut squash. You can also add cubes of potatoes for a different texture along with the butternut squash. Before putting in the over, shake all veggies (cubed) in a plastic bag with some olive oil. Salt and Pepper before baking. ***If you want some added sweetness, separately shake the butter nut squash cubes with some maple syrup before baking.

    Mix all together. Bake at 375 for about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your cubes. Don't be afraid to let your brussels sprouts blacken a little. It gives it a great roasted taste.

    **Another option, with 15 minutes left of baking, you can also coat the tops of the veggies with bread crumbs for another added bite. Let the bread crumbs brown and crisp.


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