10 Richard Olney’s Sprouts Gratin

The Dish That Launched A $1,050,000 Suit

This was the recipe that set off alarm bells in the head of Robert Shoffner, wine and food editor of The Washingtonian, when he read how to make the same dish in 1983 in a review copy of Richard Nelson’s American Cooking. Shoffner is fond of Brussels sprouts, and he thought he saw similarities in Nelson’s recipe to his favourite Richard Olney recipe from Simple French Food. The recipe is reproduced here by the kind and explicit permission of Richard Olney, whose breach of copyright suit values it at $26,923.07.


  • 60 g (2 oz) lean bacon, cut into in widths
  • 30 g (1 oz) butter
  • butter (for gratin dish and surface)
  • 500 g (1 lb) small, compact Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, parboiled 12 minutes, drained and coarsely chopped
  • salt, pepper
  • 150 ml (¼ pt, ½ US cup) double cream
  • handful ( US cup) breadcrumbs


Cook the bacon gently in butter until limp but not crisp, add the sprouts, season and toss over a medium-high flame for a minute. Spread into a buttered gratin dish, spoon the cream over the surface, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and distribute paper-thin shavings of butter here and there. Cook for about 25 minutes in a 400 F, 200 C gas 6 oven.