Swap Your Go-To Smashed Potatoes For Brussels Sprouts

Smashing food seems to be all the rage these days: Burgers like Shake Shack's ShackMeister feature smashed burger patties, and even Martha Stewart is smashing her potatoes. Sometimes, even the amateur cook at home finds that smashing is a quieter substitute for scream therapy, which scares the neighbors and upsets the dog.

Now, there's a new contender in the world of smashed foods: Brussels sprouts. These green veggies often divide opinion; some adore them, while others would rather toss them in the trash. Yet, even the most ardent haters may be swayed after trying smashed Brussels sprouts. Like potatoes, Brussels sprouts are naturally round, making them tricky to cook evenly. Halving them solves part of the problem, allowing the flat side to cook well, but the rounded side doesn't lie flat against the pan and therefore doesn't cook as evenly. Smashing them creates two flat surfaces, increasing the area in contact with the heat and ensuring an even cook. This method achieves the signature crispy exterior and soft interior that is the hallmark of smashed foods. Additionally, cooking Brussels sprouts in this fashion helps to mitigate their inherent bitterness, which can be a turn-off for some diners.

Smashed Brussels sprouts have the same flavor flexibility as potatoes

Beyond their shape similarity, Brussels sprouts also serve as excellent substitutes for smashed potatoes because they can be seasoned and paired with a wide array of other ingredients. The sprouts taste great with just salt, pepper, and butter, but their flavor profile can be altered depending on the food they accompany. Smashed Brussels sprouts with melted cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream pair well with barbecue, whereas, when served with fish, a sprinkle of rosemary and a spritz of lemon do wonders. A smashed potato au gratin casserole can be easily replaced with its sprout counterpart.

Another advantage of this swap is that Brussels sprouts generally take less time to cook than potatoes; they tend to need around 15-30 minutes to roast, depending on the oven temperature and your desired level of crispiness, as opposed to smashed potatoes, which can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour.

Smashed Brussels sprouts require some easy prep

Before your kitchen becomes Smash Town, U.S.A., a couple of preparatory steps are necessary to ensure flat and flavorful Brussels sprouts. The first is de-stemming. Brussels sprouts grow in clumps, all attached at the base to a large stem. When harvested, they're individually removed but still retain a bottom stem, which is tough and unpleasant to eat. Chop off these ends after washing the Brussels sprouts, but before cooking them.

The second step is parboiling, which differs from regular boiling. "Par" in this case stands for "partial," meaning that the Brussels sprouts are boiled only until they are soft. Once they reach this point, they are immediately removed from the heat and placed into an ice bath, or run under cold water. The objective is to soften the sprouts enough so they can be smashed easily and evenly. Overboiling can lead to mushed sprouts instead of smashed — a subtle distinction that makes a significant difference in the dish's final texture.