Brussels sprouts are little cabbages, which means they can be a bit tough. Braising softens them so that they're nice and tender.
But not too tender! Brussels sprouts should have a little bite to them, a bit of crunch. Just not so much that you can't get your teeth through them.
For that reason, I advise that you simmer them for five minutes and then test one. If it needs longer, give it another five minutes. I would certainly pay more attention to tenderness than time or whether the liquid has reduced by exactly half.
I do like to have some liquid still remaining in the pan to serve as a sauce. But if your brussels are done and you still have a ton of stock in the pan, it will thicken up some when you stir in the butter. But if you want to employ some more powerful culinary magic, you can mix up a tiny cornstarch slurry to thicken it.
By tiny, I mean I would start with about half a teaspoon of cornstarch and mix it up in a teaspoon or so of cold water, and then add the slurry to the simmering sauce. You're not trying to thicken it into mortar, you just want to give the liquid a little bit of body.
Otherwise, you can adjust the amount of liquid you use the next time you make it. Pan width and thicknesses vary so much, to say nothing of how hot the burners on your stovetop get, that it's impossible to prescribe an exact amount of liquid that will work for everyone. Cooking! It's a science, but it's also an art.
For a vegan version: Make it the vegetarian way only leave out the butter, too, and use olive oil instead.
- 1½ lbs. brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, then halved
- 1¼ lb smoked bacon, diced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- Add the bacon to a cold sauté pan. Heat slowly over low heat, stirring frequently, until the fat starts to render and the meat turns golden brown and crispy but not burnt.
- Add the brussels sprouts cut-side down and sauté over medium-high heat for a few minutes, or until they're slightly browned. This caramelization will add a lot of flavor to the recipe. Then use a pair of tongs to flip them over so that they're face up.
- Add the stock, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half (5 to 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the butter, season with Kosher salt and lemon juice and serve right away.