Brussels sprouts get a bad rap but are some of the tastiest vegetables ever. The secret is they need to be caramelized by dry heat like roasting or frying to unlock their sweetness and texture. Remember these three tips. First, be sure to brown the sprouts and get some crispy leaves. Second, season generously. And third, keep them al dente inside, so they'll have some texture.
Technique tip: Cast iron is the best pan for deep browning on the stove and finishing in the oven because of its heavy build and ability to hold heat.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.2.
Trim the bottom of each Brussels sprout, then slice each in half from top to bottom. Heat the olive oil (or bacon drippings, if using) in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Put the sprouts cut-side down in one layer in the pan. Add the garlic, sprinkle with the salt and pepper and add the thyme sprigs.3.
Cook, undisturbed, until the sprouts begin to turn golden brown on the bottom, 4-6 minutes.4.
Add the cooked bacon pieces and transfer the pan to the oven. Continue to roast, shaking the pan every 5 minutes, until the sprouts are quite brown and tender, 15-18 minutes. Pierce the stemmy core of a few sprouts with the tip of a paring knife to check for tenderness.5.
Add the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, and stir to coat. Remove the thyme sprigs. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot or warm.