brussels sprouts and chestnuts in brown butter

Every so often, a recipe crosses my browser’s threshold and I know immediately that it Must Be Made. Surely, you know the feeling. This happens a lot more in the fall, because I simply love the cooking this time of year–warm, soupy, stewy and rich. We haven’t yet succumbed to hibernation and meals scraped from whatever was in the pantry because the famers’ markets looked so paltry, and you seriously cannot deal with another butternut squash.


Today’s New York Times dining section’s Thanksgiving feature had exactly that effect on me, times 16. Seriously, look at this slideshow! The photography is stunning, and the recipes… I want to try them all.*


But I started with the Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts in Brown Butter Sauce, touted elsewhere in the section by Flo-Fab for it’s ability to pair seamlessly with wine. (She didn’t mention the rose we were drinking, but I had no complaints.) And seriously, what are the odds that I would have just happened to have picked up some chestnuts in Chinatown this weekend on the street, waiting to be roasted at home? Exactly nonexistent, I’ll tell you, and yet still it happened.

shallots in butterbrussels and chestnuts

It’s hard for me to say anything bad about this recipe because our apartment currently smells like browned butter and shallots which, trust me, is a very good thing. We loved the Brussels as well as the chestnuts but something went wrong with the (delicious) veloute. The recipe wasn’t clear on this whole “thickened” thing and when it hadn’t happened after five minutes, and the recipe said nothing about cooking it for 20 or something, I considered it done. It wasn’t. The final dish was tasty, but swimming in this sauce. We threw it over some egg noodles (in possibly the best sauce for egg noodles, ever) but I still suspect that this is not the way the dish was supposed to go.

So, to summarize: flavors = amazing, ingredients = delicious, preparation = a little fussy but manageable, sauce = decadent, but the wrong consistency. Thus, the recipe needs some work before it’s ready for your Thanksgiving table, but I do think it’s worth salvaging. Just perhaps not tonight. The rose is making me sleepy.

brussel sprouts and chestnuts in brown butter

* Actually, one of them I already have. Highly recommended.

Q&A? Seeing as I’ve made to the halfway point of NaBloPoMo (woo!) I was thinking about throwing a Q&A post in there to give our kitchen (and the handsome dishwasher) a one-day rest. Of course then I realized that it is entirely possible that nobody actually has a question they want me to answer, and I obviously have an inflated sense of self-importance to presume that people would. And then I thought of the dishes, all the time with the dishes that never stop, and have decided I’m not too proud to beg. But I hope it doesn’t come to that.

One year ago: Tomato and Sausage Risotto

Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts in Brown Butter Sauce
New York Times 11/14/07

Serves 8

2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup very thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup roasted, peeled chestnuts, halved if large.

1. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil, add brussels sprouts and cook 10 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Add shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring, until light brown. Pour contents of pan through a fine strainer into a dish, pressing to remove as much butter as possible from shallots. Place shallots on paper towel to drain. Return butter to saucepan.

3. If serving immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook until butter has a nutty aroma and is turning brown. Whisk in flour and cook until mixture is light brown. Whisk in stock and cook until sauce has thickened. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg. Add chestnuts and brussels sprouts, folding ingredients together.

4. Transfer to an 8-cup baking dish. Scatter shallots on top. Bake about 15 minutes. Serve.

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73 comments on brussels sprouts and chestnuts in brown butter

  1. I bought my first brussels sprouts of the season a couple of days ago (because it’s gotten cold enough here in Washington that they’ll be sweet), and I’ve been trying to decide how to prepare them. Now I know. Your sauce may not have thickened sufficiently, but the dish looks and sounds gorgeous. Now I just have to find some chestnuts.

  2. Brittany

    When I read the Times today, this was the recipe I most wanted to add to our Thanksgiving dinner this year. (Plus your City Bakery cranberry tart. Both the LA Times and NYT included cranberry tart recipes today.)

  3. Amy

    Those brussels sprouts look fantastic! I might have to make them this year. If you haven’t made the maple cream pie in the NYT slideshow yet, do it now! It is so lovely and delicious (and easy).

    Hmm… questions… What is your very favorite tool in the kitchen? Which kitchen tool has the most interesting story (how you got it, something funny that happened while using it, whatever)?

  4. Sarah

    Hi Deb: Delurking to ask a question. So I read SK religiously and adore just about everything you make. I wouldn’t say that I’m intimidated because really you make it seem so easy, but I guess I am. So lets say that someone was interested in starting to cook where would you start? I live alone and rarely have the gumption to cook for one after a day’s work. Any thoughts? Also, do you have any suggestions for what you absolutely need to have on hand in your kitchen? Btw, awesome to see you in the Boston Globe- I felt very ahead of the curve….:)

    1. Jennifer Ratcliffe

      Tim not the Deb guru, but I just had to jump in to say that the best thing I did for myself as a young, single woman was to cook for one! It boosted my self-esteem. Try it!

  5. Poor dears, too much cooking, picture taking, dish doing and writing about it is going to have you both going nuts. I think a Q & A would be great. Can you tell us about the first thing you remember eating and loving? What do you always have in your refrigerator? What do you think about the word ‘foodie’? What is your favorite cooking trick (you know, that thing that makes you proud you know how to do it)? What is your favorite food? Is there something that you’ve always wanted to make but haven’t yet (either because you haven’t gotten around to it or because it’s just so daunting)? Are there any on-line sources for food or cooking paraphernalia that you would recommend? Would you show us your cookbook collection? That last one could be a post in and of itself.

    Hang in there!

  6. Hi, Deb.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks–so I’m a little new. But, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it! This is really one of my faves and one of the best food blogs out there. Your recipes are wonderful!

  7. I checked out that slide show and all I have to say is…. I GOT DIBS ON THE Corn Pudding With Herb-Braised Chanterelles and Spicy Greens! hahaha….

    If I had to ask you a question, Deb, I think it would be what is your favorite “common” food? What I mean by that is, you cook such beautiful and sophisticated food all the time, but I have a feeling deep down that you could put away a few buffalo wings if no one was looking. Am I right? hahaha… So what is your guiltiest junk food/fast food/bar food pleasure?

  8. We certainly can’t let you not have any questions. :)

    I’d like to hear a little more about your day job – reading your bio you’re a geek and a foodie….so am I! I’d love to hear some of your tips/tricks/routine for a balancing a full day job and your blog, which I often find difficult.

  9. Wow, just wow. This looks absolutely amazing. I feel I must make every recipe that has chestnuts in it, period, and I have been looking for a new way to make brussel sprouts. This sounds so delicious!

  10. onlyconnect

    Oooh, I have a selfish one! Any idea what could have gone wrong for me when I tried the baked french toast recipe? Burned on top, soggy on the bottom. I’m thinking I must not have had enough bread, but there was a whole loaf in there. Does it have to be stale to soak up more custard? I think it was in the lowest rack in the oven.

    Love the site and the pictures; have been a devoted reader since the days of the dating blog. Thanks!

  11. RA

    I haven’t had Brussels sprouts in years, but I kind of want to get back to them. The hubs will definitely not join me in partaking, so I need to find something that microwaves well for a week of lunches…

    My Q is: what is your most beloved/recommended cookbook? I feel that it is difficult to navigate around the masses of books out there…

  12. Do the mouth-watering posts never end? I feel like I’ve entered Shangri-La. It’s 8:40 AM and I’m already hungry for these brussel sprouts. I can see I have to start subscribing to the NYT for more of these recipes. Scratch that, I’ll just keep checking out Smitten Kitchen instead (so much easier!)

  13. Dancer who eats

    Tips for real people. I have a 40+ hour a week job, have dance rehearsal two times a week, teach two times a week, do volunteer work, have two dogs (one is a puppy), and don’t even have enough time to sleep. (I went to bed at 2AM. Did I mention that I have two gigs this weekend?) I imagine my schedule is crazy but doesn’t compare to the working Moms out there.

    Could you name your favorite quick recipes? Items you always have in the pantry? Prep work you can do over the weekend to make cooking on a weekday feasible.

  14. I made something last year that involved peeling a pound of chestnuts which was a bitch. It took forever and my fingers were ragged afterwards. Do you have any hints about the roasting and peeling of chestnuts?

    I like Q&As, and the camera one you did recently was great. I second all of Mary’s Q&A ideas, and Sara’s comment also. And kitchen disaster stories. Give us some good kitchen disaster stories!

  15. 1. This dish looks delicious. I hope you get a chance to figure out the problem, because I’d love to make it for thanksgiving.

    2. Question: Do you have a good recipe for yeasty rolls? I’d love to make some for thanksgiving, but I can’t find a recipe I want to try. Thanks!

  16. Susannah

    Hi there, I absolutely love your blog and am currently mustering the courage to attempt the cranberry caramel almond tarts. QUESTION: I’m making my Christmas list for Santa and as a fairly young/starting out cook, I would like to have a few quality, versatile pieces of cookware. I was hoping you would share what type of pots/skillets/pans you use the most and what brand/type (copper, stainless steel) they are. I love braised meats, so I’ve been looking at an all clad braiser…thanks for any help!

  17. Emily

    You and Alex are always making such great recipes, but don’t you end up with a ton of food for 2 people? Do you trim down larger recipes or do you have a refrigerator full of leftovers (which we know you’re not into)?

  18. bludab

    I’m pretty new here but since Monday I’ve been referring people here left, right, and center! I want to make this recipe since my kids are freaks and will eat anything green, but I’ll admit roasting the chestnuts intimidates me a little. I’m not sure why – maybe too much Joy of Cooking nattering on about the special braziers and pots especially for the purpose? Fun and instructional but intimidating!
    Anyways, a question — what are your best stovetop recipes? My oven is on the fritz and this is making me crazy!

  19. Mrs.Dolce

    Jocelyn’s comment made me giggle, simply because I love how they look when they are uncooked, but for some reason if I put them in a stir fry they have a really bad smell.
    I don’t know if it’s the way I do it or what, but I’ll have to try this recipe as it’s got lemon juice and Im hoping that will make the smell unnoticeable.

  20. Marlys

    I have questions!
    You try so many new recipes, I’m kind of (no, definitely) in awe. What are your old favorites and standbys? What do you make when you come home after work and just want to make something you already know exactly how to do and don’t have to think about?

  21. That sounds so GOOD!!
    Some of favorite things: brown butter sauce, brussels sprouts, and chestnuts. This is going on the holiday list along with those cranberry caramel almond tarts of yours.
    You just keep it up miss Deb.

  22. Laura

    Hi Deb! Another long-time fan, first time commentor. I LOVE your website and November has turned into my favorite month, because there’s an update everyday! I’m always telling my coworkers what new recipe my ‘friend’ Deb has tried :) Anyway, my question, is that I love to cook and especially to bake, but I am deathly afraid of making dough. I feel that even if you have trouble, then there is no possible way mine is going to succeed. So I was wondering if you had a basic dough (crust, tart, etc) recipe for me to start with? I want to try the cranberry caramel almond tart so much that I’m thinking of just buying some pre-made pie crust and dumping the filling in… Please help! :)

  23. I saw a feature in the Globe and Mail (a newspaper in Canada) recently that asked several prominent chefs, “What would your last meal on earth be, where,what would be the soundtrack, and with whom?”

    I’d love to hear your answer!

  24. oh i love smitten kitchen. currently living at home, my cooking crazy dad and my bake happy mom don’t really leave much time for me to try any of these marvelous looking recipes out but i still check them out and mentally drool.

    question: if you had to cook with only five ingredients for the rest of your life (excluding water, salt, and pepper), what would they be?

    and to the chestnut questions- my dad roasts chestnuts every year for thanksgiving stuffing and it generally involves a lot of four letter words. until last year, when, after roasting them in the oven (no need for a special pan, just make sure you make a cut in each or THEY will explode and you will spend YEARS removing chestnut bits from your kitchen), he sat down with me and my mom to watch a movie. about two hours later, after they had cooled down, they were MUCH easier to peel. still four letter words, but they were more along the lines of ‘nice’, ‘cool’, and ‘geez’.

  25. chris

    I’ve actually got a couple butter-related noobie questions. When baking something requiring softened (room temp) butter, do you just let it sit out for a couple hours, or have a microwave shortcut to expedite the butter thawing processination?

    Also, I noticed in your (adapter) awesome banana bread recipe, that it uses melted butter. I’ve always done the more “traditional” method of letting the butter soften, then beating it with the sugar for a few minutes to attain the standard “light and fluffiness” before incorporating everything else. How does melting the butter in your recipe affect things?

    Silly questions that are maybe better suited for a Cookwise type-site or Harold McGee, but those are two nagging questions I’ve had as of late.

    Cheers to you and your great site. It’s been inspiring me to get cooking again in the kitchen lately!

  26. Ohhh, I have a question. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I just realized this week that you’re in NYC! What are your favorite places to buy ingredients (best fruits and veggies, best breads, best ethnic ingredients, kitchen supplies, etc) in Manhattan?

  27. Colleen

    I’ve beeen reading SK for a whole year! I know this because I found you while looking at no-knead bread recipes and “One for the Sling File” was the first post I read here. I look forward to your blog everyday and it never fails to make me laugh, drool, stand in awe of your photography, and feel pangs of jealousy (I want an Alex!). Promise if you get a book deal (and you so deserve one!), you won’t abandon us?!

    My question is: Do you have a good method of filing, tracking, rating all the recipes you clip, print, come across in cookbooks, etc.? And, related: Do you use the recipe box on Epicurious?

  28. Jessica

    Do you find it creepy that I had a dream about you, Alex and Joc last night? I’ve never dreamed about Dooce… :-)

    So, I’ve been having this idea for SK for a while – could you put a “how to” section up there in the menu bar by recipes and stuff? You could put in your MS Paint drawings of lattice top crust, cutting parchment paper, etc… I’ve used your lattice idea a cou

  29. Jessica

    Do you find it creepy that I had a dream about you, Alex and Joc last night? I’ve never dreamed about Dooce… :-)

    So, I’ve been having this idea for SK for a while – could you put a “how to” section up there in the menu bar by recipes and stuff? You could put in your MS Paint drawings of lattice top crust, cutting parchment paper, etc… I’ve used your lattice idea a cou

  30. Jessica

    Sorry, retarded computer. Anyways, I’ve used the lattice drawing a couple of times and always have to go digging for the picture…

  31. laura

    I’ve been lurking for months and love your blog! I’m a journalism student who loves to bake so I read a lot of food blogs and yours is definitely my favorite. But here’s a question — I’m traveling to NYC in a couple of weeks with my boyfriend and we’re looking for a cute dessert (or maybe dinner) place that isn’t too pricey (for poor college students). I’d love to hear a favorite of yours.

  32. JessicaB

    Good lord that looks good.

    I absolutely love your blog, Deb. And I’d like to know if there’s a recipe or two that you’d recommend for adding some vegetarian-friendliness to a Thanksgiving meal. I’m the only veg in my family, so I usually like to contribute something that everyone will enjoy, as well as save me from a meal of yams and cranberry sauce.

    You’re an inspiration. Keep up the beautiful work!

  33. Jessica

    I believe we were drinking. Heavily. Hard to believe, I know, especially after reading your blog. I find it so odd how you people have managed to infiltrate my dreams now too.

  34. Ask for questions and you shall receive. I’m a fairly recent dedicated reader, so my apologies if some of these have been covered before in past posts.

    What is your first memory of cooking/baking?
    What are your top 5 classic, go-to recipes?
    What ingredient makes you want to run and hide before you have to deal with cooking and/or eating something with that ingredient in it?
    Why do you blog?

    Happy halfway point of NaBloPoMo! Only 15 days to go!

  35. Thea

    This recipe came just at the right time, as I had just purchased some brussels sprouts and cranberries (I love the two together). So I made it for dinner last night, sort of. I left out the chestnuts (the only place I could think of off hand to find roasted chestnuts was Salzburg), used a yellow onion instead of shallots (that is what I had at home), and used vegetable broth to make it vegetarian. I also used closer to 2 cups broth rather than 2.5. The broth thickened-up beautifully within a matter of minutes. This could possibly be due to using less broth, or perhaps the differing amounts of sugars released in onions vs. shallots. Anyways, it was FABULOUS!! With brussels sprouts like these, cranberry sauce is not even necessary!

  36. Janet

    I saw this recipe Wednesday and thought it was great up to the sauce part. I think it might try it but just toss with browned butter before heating. The November issue of Food & Wine has a recipe called Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter. The brussels sprouts are roasted. You can always add chestnuts to it.
    Love your blog and appreciate your “system testing” for us!

  37. lana

    I made this for friends for dinner last night and everyone had seconds. I’d never had chestnuts before but they are now a favorite thing. My sauce thickened up just fine but it took a bit more than five minutes.

  38. Dang it! I was so excited to make these for dinner, but I pulled out the sprouts from our CSA box and, well, they made your fennel look edible if you catch my drift. Sad, now I have no sprouts and I have to clean living things out from the fridge.

  39. lindsey

    so this is a delayed reaction comment- but i used to serve in fine dining. one restaurant i worked for MADE me fall in love with brussel sprouts. this recipe looks rediculously delicious- but i have to share with you the other one…

    1 lb. brussel sprouts- halved.
    3 shallots thinly sliced
    1 clove of garlic
    1 tbsp. of olive oil.
    1/4 cup of white wine
    1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese
    a splash of cream

    blanche brussel sprouts in salted water. drain. saute shallots and and garlic for a minute or so. toss in brussel sprouts and sautee for about 3-4 minutes. add chili flakes, white wine. add cream after about 2 minutes. add blue cheese right before serving.

    really easy but such a lovely flavor combination. you should try it sometime. i would eat this and our avocado mashed potatoes with tangerine oil for dinner almost every night!

  40. bobbincat

    Ok so I made a vegetarian version of this the other day. I didn’t have enough veggie stock (just shy of 2c of homemade carrot/celery/onion stock) so I substituted some left over pumpkin water I had in the fridge. Pumpkin water = water squeezed out of pumpkin mash after boiling with spices-nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar. It was PHENOMENAL!! The sugar and spice really brought out the flavor in the sprouts.

  41. Gali

    One month later, I finally made this, and it turned out great. I was patient, cooking the sauce for a while. It did take around 20 minutes but finally thickened, with the final result being a nice thick sauce coating everything nicely. I have to admit, though, that your description of the runny sauce over noodles makes me want to try again and not thicken the sauce.
    It was yummy, with one small complaint – it turned out too lemony. I love lemon but actually preferred the sauce the way it tasted before adding lemon juice. I used freshly squeezed lemon and recommend adding it gradually.

  42. Melissa

    I made this for Thanksgiving yesterday and it turned out ok. I used veggie stock instead of chicken, which might have been better but I was cooking for vegetarians. My sauce thickened fine but somehow the end result was lackluster. I prefer simply roasting sprouts in the oven. Maybe others will have better luck!

  43. Sam

    This recipe looks absolutely amazing AND I just bought some local Michigan chestnuts at the farmer’s market so I desperately want to make this!

    Only problem is that I don’t eat dairy… Think there’s any way to make a similar “brown butter” taste without the butter??

  44. kathy in st louis

    A bit of cross-posting from the chestnut cookies post: woooow, delicious. Because I added too much chicken broth accidentally, I did add a bit of cornstarch to the sauce. Anyhow, I love this dish for its combination of textures and richness and sharpness from the lemon. AND, most importantly, it’s reassuring to know that overroasted chestnuts soften up in the sauce!

  45. kathy in st. louis

    Just put this in the oven again. No chestnuts, but I did have two ears of corn and some broccoli that needed to be used up — so into the mix they went. Used a small onion instead of the shallots, too. It smells terrific, and the bit of sauce I tasted was just the right kind of savory.

  46. Ladotyk

    Yum! Too bad I suck at roasting chestnuts, but the dish was still superb. I’ll be making this again and again. I wasn’t able to brown the butter as well as I usually can, though, after it had been used to soften the shallots. I wonder if all the milk solids got scooped out?

  47. Lisa in Kentucky

    Based on the comments, I made the following adjustments to ingredients and the dish turned out perfectly!

    2 cups stock (I used vegetable stock for vegetarian)
    6 tablespoons of unsalted butter instead of 4
    1 whole cup of shallots (the more on the top the better!)
    3 1/2 tablespoons of flour
    1 tablespoon of lemon juice

    Also, be sure and make the sauce in the same saucepan you brown the shallots in so you can get all the butter/shallot bits for flavor into the sauce. Yum!

  48. Kristin

    “Every so often, a recipe crosses my browser’s threshold and I know immediately that it Must Be Made…” Oh, I totally know the feeling…this was my very thought when I saw “brussel sprouts” and “chestnuts” in the same line. Two of my all time favorite foods, but I’ve never tried them together and this sounds like the PERFECT occasion, as soon as chestnuts are in season here in Tennessee.

  49. Susan

    This casserole with brussel sprouts and chestnuts if quickly becoming a Thanksgiving standard at our house. It’s even popular with people who don’t normally love brussel sprouts! Someone brought it to our house a few years ago and then I found the recipe and have been making it annually every since. You can get the chestnuts all cooked and peeled at Trader Joe’s in the refrigerated veggie section. Hint: I cut the sprouts into quarters to make the bites smaller and more tender.

  50. Maro

    I was definitely underwhelmed by this one. I would like to try it again with tweaks; it was just kind of bland for all the delicious flavor that went into it, the sprouts were overdone and didn’t really get any of the flavor of the sauce. We ended up adding a sprinkle of cheese, which helped. I think this one could use a deb revisit/revamp. Your tweaks are always spot on!

  51. Ali

    I’m hoping to make this for thanksgiving this year. Did you ever figure out how to improve the sauce consistency to your satisfaction? Also, can any of this be made ahead of time?

  52. K

    I found bags of roasted, peeled chestnuts for a buck a piece – post-holiday clearance – and so I made this again. I make this dish a few times a year, rarely with the chestnuts because I’m impatient, and so it was nice to return to all of it together. So delicious.

  53. Meredith Gladwell

    This easily could have required up to 20 minutes to thicken, depending on the exact temperature. I’m going to try it very soon because it sounds good and I happen to have all the ingredients including a few others I might include to spruce it up a bit.

    If a recipe gives an instruction like “cook until sauce has thickened”, you don’t worry about any specific amount of time, you do just what it says – cook it until it actually thickens. Honestly I’m just a little surprised and puzzled that someone who writes a cooking blog “considered it done” after only five minutes when the recipe is clear on what to do. I mean you even said it hadn’t changed yet after only five minutes, that was the clue that it wasn’t done. I’ve never had this kind of sauce thicken up nearly that fast, but I have indeed rushed sauces like this and also ended up with a tasty but very runny, thin sauce.

  54. I made this tonight for the first time! I had some chestnuts I had to figure out what to do with, and I love brussel sprouts. The sauce is delicious, though I wish I had made it a little thicker. Also, I’d add more fried shallots on top, do a shorter boil time for the brussels, and bake everything longer. I love a browned crispy b.sprout! Those are just guesses for next time. In general, though, this was a lovely hearty dish, very different from other winter dishes I’ve cooked this season.

  55. Agnieszka

    I made this tonight. Kind of changed the process to make it in less dishes. I used onion (as that’s what I had) and I fried the Brussels sprouts together with the onions (instead of cooking them separately). I didn’t bother to separate them from the butter, just added the flower to the onions/Brussels sprouts, cooked it for a minute and then added the chicken stock. The rest I added per recipe. However the taste was too lemony for us. The sauce was delicious before I added the lemon and that’s how I would make it next time. My son who loves Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and onions had a hard time eating this because of the lemon.
    We had it as dinner with crusty whole grain bread.