Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts and Spiced Caramelized Nuts Recipes

Mmm, bacon. It can attract a glance as well as a designer-clad celeb—you saw the photo. And if you’re planning to host a little soiree during the Academy Awards this Sunday, these simple yet sumptuous appetizers are sure to win the “best bites” category. “Who are you wearing?” “Bacon.”  But underneath that deliciously savory bacon is a bite of healthy veggie for a good little naughty-and-nice combination in this recipe by chef and caterer Serena Bass, which appeared in Real Food. Plus, you can make them ahead and keep in the fridge and heat just before showtime. Add a little something sweet and spicy to the mix with these spiced and caramelized nuts that can also be made ahead for easy entertaining or to bring to a party. Both of these could be a delicious addition to a Downton Abbey series finale [sob] gathering the following week. Any leftover nuts, if you have any, could even keep until then.

You’ll want to raise a glass to your favorite stars, of course. Boddingtons Pub Ale pairs perfectly with the bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts, suggests Bass. Otherwise, any beer that’s medium amber color and not bitter will work nicely. And a Moscow Mule, is fantastic with the spiced nuts. (Combine 2 ounces vodka, 5 ounces ginger beer, and the juice of half a lime.)

Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Brussels Sprouts Skewers with a Splash of Maple

Makes 10 servings

These tasty appetizers are easy to make and hold well for 12 hours, requiring only a last-minute roasting to release all their wonderful, earthy flavors. Use 30 6-inch bamboo skewers or toothpicks.

15 firm Brussels sprouts, similarly sized
15 slices bacon
3 tbsp. pure maple syrup
freshly ground black pepper

Cut and discard Brussels sprout ends and remove outer layer. Cut a shallow “x” on stem.

Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer. Add Brussels sprouts and cook 7 minutes, until al dente (a small, sharp knife inserted should meet some resistance). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, fry bacon 2 to 3 minutes, until starting to brown but still very pliable. Cook in batches if necessary. Remove from pan, cut each slice in half across width, and set aside. Remove and reserve all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan.

Vertically halve Brussels sprouts. Heat fat to smoking. In 2 or 3 batches, sauté Brussels sprouts, cut side down, 1 minute, until slightly brown at edges, adding more fat as needed.

Wrap each Brussels sprouts half in a piece of bacon and secure with a skewer. (The skewers can be made up to this point up to 12 hours before serving.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange skewers on baking sheet and bake 6 to 8 minutes, until bacon is crisp. If Brussels sprouts are cold from refrigeration, they’ll take an extra minute or so.

Remove from oven. Dribble a little maple syrup over each skewer and grind on some black pepper before serving.

Spiced and Caramelized Nuts

Makes 10 servings

These nuts are a walk on the wild side with their heady mix of sweet and salty, spicy and crunchy. If you want to make this recipe in greater volume, make it twice; the nuts will be too tricky to maneuver if you try to double the recipe. Use a stainless-steel pan so you can check the color of the caramel, which always demands attention but is a stepping-stone to something irresistible.

12 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
112 tsp. salt
112 tsp. ground cumin (or freshly ground cinnamon, for dessert decoration)
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 c. whole, peeled almonds

In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp. sugar, salt, cumin, and hot pepper flakes. (Set aside.)

In a large, shallow sauté pan, heat oil. Add almonds and remaining 12 cup sugar. Cook until sugar forms a dark, golden caramel.

Quickly dribble almonds onto a baking sheet in a random fashion. Distribute in thin caramel and avoid letting nuts pile up.

Using two forks, quickly separate almonds. This is a little sticky but persevere; if you leave them too long, the nuts will just all glom together.

When caramel has hardened, toss almonds with coating. Nuts will keep at least 1 week stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutrition info (Per serving)
Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Brussels Sprouts Skewers: CALORIES 115 (70 From Fat); FAT 8g (Sat. 3g); CHOL 16mg; SODIUM 288mg; CARB 6g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 5g
Spiced & Caramelized Nuts: CALORIES 240 (152 From Fat); FAT 18g (Sat. 2g); CHOL 0mg; SODIUM 361mg; CARB 17g; FIBER 3g; PROTEIN 6g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.