Cavolini di Bruxelles fritti (Deep Fried Brussels Sprouts)

Cavolini di Bruxelles fritti (Fried Brussels Sprouts)

In antipasti, contorno, secondi piatti by Frank36 Comments

As the holidays draw to a close, we all want to eat a bit lighter. But with temperatures reaching record lows and snow falling, let’s not make it too light, shall we?

Enter Ada Boni, the doyenne of traditional Italian home cooking and author of the iconic Talismano della felicità, with this week’s recipe for Fried Brussels Sprouts, or cavolini di Bruxelles fritti. Her Brussels sprouts are parboiled until slightly underdone, then enveloped in a flour and water batter enriched with Parmesan cheese, egg yolks and whipped egg whites.

These little beauties are quite versatile. Aside from a side dish, they could serve as an antipasto, as part of a fritto misto, or even a vegetarian main.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 as a side dish or 2-3 as a vegetarian main

  • 500g (1 lb) Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • Oil for for deep frying

For the batter:

  • 200g (2 cups) flour
  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 25g (1 oz) grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 egg

Directions

Prep the Brussels sprouts: Trim off the steam and any discolored outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts. Then boil them in well salted water until still crisp tender, about 6 or 7 minutes for smaller ones, perhaps 10 minutes for larger ones. Drain them and let them cool.

While the sprouts are cooling, prepare the batter. Whisk together the flour and water, then mix in the grated cheese, salt and olive oil. Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks into the batter. Whip the whites until they form soft peaks (you’ll want an electric whisk for this until you have really strong arms) and fold them gingerly into the batter.

Heat the oil in your deep fryer until it’s moderately hot, say around 180C/360F. Mix the Brussels sprouts in the batter until they are all well coated. One by one, pick the sprouts out of the batter with some tongs, shake them gently to shed the excess batter, and plop them gingerly into the hot oil, taking care to avoid splashing the hot oil. Deep fry the sprouts for about 5 minutes, or until they have browned to your liking.

Serve while still warm, sprinkled generously with salt.

Cavolini di Bruxelles fritti (Deep Fried Brussels Sprouts)

Notes on Fried Brussels Sprouts

Smaller sprouts work better in this recipe, as they provide better balance between crust and veg. And they’re bite-sized, so you can just pop them in your mouth like popcorn. If your sprouts are rather larger than bite-sized, you can split them in half.

In typically Italian style, Boni provides no measurements for the batter, but the measurements given here worked for me. For batters, the more liquid you use, the thinner the resulting crust will be. But add too much and the batter won’t adhere properly to the main ingredient. Add less liquid for a thicker coating if you prefer.

If you don’t have a deep fryer, you can use a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add enough oil to come at least 5cm/2 inches up the sides. Heat the oil until hot but not smoking and proceed as indicated in the recipe.

Other Batters for Frying…

As any regular reader will know, I love fried foods. I’ve experimented with all sorts of coatings for frying: from just a light dusting of flour, to flouring followed by an egg bath, to breading, to batters made from flour and plain water, flour and sparkling water, flour and beer, flour and egg, and now this one, enriched with separated egg yolk and whipped whites.

I had shied away from putting whipped eggs whites in my frying batters before, thinking it would make the crusts too thick and stodgy, but I was wrong. In fact, the whites lighten the batter and the crust is pleasantly crispy. Lesson learned. The grated cheese adds a nice flavor—you might even want to add more than called for here for extra flavor. The cheese compliments the taste of the Brussels sprouts very nicely.

Nevertheless, I do have to say that my favorite batter remains Angelina’s method: a light flouring, followed by a bath in beaten egg enriched with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley. Nothing beats it for flavor and texture, in my opinion.

You can, of course, deep fry your Brussels sprouts without any coating at all. Most ‘trendy’ recipes at the moment, like this one from the ever-reliable Kenji Lopez-Alt, go that route, calling for deep frying raw sprouts, often cut in half, for 5 minutes (or even less) until golden brown and sometimes served with a sauce. It’s a technique that is probably more to modern tastes. But as for me, I’ll stick with Ada’s way.

 

Cavolini di Bruxelles fritti (Deep Fried Brussels Sprouts)

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish or 2-3 as a vegetarian main

Cavolini di Bruxelles fritti (Deep Fried Brussels Sprouts)

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 lb) Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • Oil for for deep frying
  • For the batter:
  • 200g (2 cups) flour
  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 25g (1 oz) grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Prep the Brussels sprouts: Trim off the steam and any discolored outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts. Then boil them in well salted water until still crisp tender, about 6 or 7 minutes for smaller ones, perhaps 10 minutes for larger ones. Drain them and let them cool.
  2. While the sprouts are cooling, prepare the batter. Whisk together the flour and water, then mix in the grated cheese, salt and olive oil. Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks into the batter. Whip the whites until they form soft peaks (you'll want an electric whisk for this until you have really strong arms) and fold them gingerly into the batter.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep fryer until it's moderately hot, say 180C/360F. Mix the Brussels sprouts in the batter until they are all well coated. One by one, pick the sprouts out of the batter with some tongs, shake them gently to shed the excess batter, and plop them gingerly into the hot oil, taking care to avoid splashing the hot oil. Deep fry the sprouts for about 5 minutes, or until they have browned to your liking.
  4. Serve while still warm, sprinkled generously with salt.

Notes

If your sprouts are rather larger than bite-sized, you can split them in half. 

If you don't have a deep fryer, you can use a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add enough oil to come at least 5cm/2 inches up the sides. Heat the oil until hot but not smoking and proceed as indicated in the recipe. 

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Comments

  1. When I first saw these I thought they were olive ascolane, but brussel sprouts sound great, too! Who would ever have thought to batter and deep fry them? Not me, but why not! I LOVE brussel sprouts so will have to give these a try sometime! Thanks, Frank!

  2. I’d have thought I’d thought of battering and frying everything, but obviously I hadn’t! And how I love Brussels sprouts…

  3. Wow, Frank I must taste these fried Brussels sprouts! They are one of my favourite vegetables and just imagining this makes me drool.

  4. I’ve got some tiny, little purple Brussels sprouts in the fridge that would love this treatment!

  5. Oh my goodness Frank. Just when I had thoughts of diet foods and losing weight, you have to go and post this delicious looking dish. I think I could polish off the whole bowl. I should pay more attention to my cookbooks, including Il Talismano, because I just love this idea – something I never saw or heard of.

    1. Author

      Ha ha! I hadn’t either until I stumbled onto it. As you say sometimes it really pays to go back to those old reliables like the Talismano. 🙂

  6. I have never eaten battered and fried brussel sprouts but these look like I could eat a platter of them. Great recipe for a light batter.

  7. What an interesting recipe, Frank! I can safely say that I’ve never tried frying brussels before, but I do love brussels…and I do love fried food…so the combo sounds amazing! Good tips on frying there, too. I bet these would be great appetizers to serve while watching sports, too…maybe football or the Olympics in a couple of weeks. Yum!

  8. non ho mai pensato a friggere i cavoletti di Bruxelles, mi hai dato un’idea fantastica e molto tentatrice ! Buon Anno Frank !

  9. These sound fantastic, even if we aren’t suffering from the same weather you are having! I have only started going through Il Talismano… my Italian is rudimentary so it takes me a bit of time with each recipe. I wonder if this in her Italian Regional Cooking? Happy New Year – stay safe and warm!

    1. Author

      Not sure, I don’t have that one, although I do need to get it one of these days! Happy New Year to you, too!

  10. This looks great and I imagine just popping these little guys right in my mouth. Also, I love Kenji! Serious Eats always has good stuff.

    1. Author

      I agree, Ben. I don’t actually like most of the food mass media out there, but Kenji is definitely the real deal.

  11. Oh wow! I’ve just come home with some sprouts from the supermarket that were reduced to clear, I will definitely be making this. 🙂

  12. Ciao Frank!
    This is about the only way I could ever sneak sprouts past my husband. I have also tried with cauliflower and zucchini. Too much green “stuff” on his plate sends him into a tizzy… some Italian.

    1. Author

      Wow, that soufflé does look incredible! I’ll have to try it out for my next dinner party. I’m sure it would be a big hit. Like you, I don’t consult the Talismano as often as I could and perhaps should. It’s a real treasure trove.

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