In winter I tend to complain
whine about the lack of fresh produce beyond citrus and winter greens like kale. We have certainly covered citrus in desserts and cocktails (and we will continue to do so). But what about the kale? (and other winter greens?) Well, we have been working on it.
It turns out, we all enjoy kale at Putney Farm. Even the kids. Add some butter, cream, bacon and salt- and our kale kicks ass! But that’s just a bit of a cop-out. I can add butter, cream, bacon and salt to tree bark and it would probably taste good. The kids would probably like it, too. Also, the cream-based kale seems less,well….green. When each serving is a thousand calories, I barely classify the kale as a vegetable. While the cream-based kale tastes great, Carolyn and I started working on a recipe for kale or greens that has good flavor, is healthier, but still easy to make.
We started with a recipe from Cook’s Country and adapted it to our tastes. The recipe takes about 40-60 minutes, uses ingredients you likely have (or can get) and requires no special equipment. The flavor boost come from pancetta (or bacon), sugar and vinegar. The fat and salt of the pork match with the greens and the sweet/sour mix of the sugar and vinegar create a balanced dish. The dish tastes great and is a lot lighter that our butter & cream version.
Unlike most recipes from Cook’s Illustrated / Cook’s Country / America’s Test Kitchen, where they often take a basic dish then add silly steps to make it seem like they have created some culinary masterpiece, this is an easy, straightforward recipe. It is even a true, simple, “one pot” dish, which is a rare thing from the world of Chris Kimball. I can tell you, regardless of all his “Vermontness” (enough of that, Chris, jeez), the guy clearly doesn’t do the dishes after he cooks his own recipes. If you have tried Cooks Illustrated recipes recently you know what I mean, extra dish soap for cleanup, valium for recovery should always be in the ingredients list. But this is NOT one of “those” dishes..
In any event, this is a very flavorful kale or winter greens recipe that you can make any time. We serve the kale as a side dish or place a fried egg on top for a hearty lunch. You can use most hearty greens (kale, collards, turnip, mustard, etc.) in this dish, but adjust cooking time and remove any tough stems before cooking.
Notes Before You Start:
- This is easy, tastes good and is inexpensive. Make it.
- One key variation is the vinegar used in the dish. If you like the greens sweeter, use a sherry or rice wine vinegar. If you want a more tart flavor use red wine or cider vinegar. This small change will make a BIG difference in the final dish. If you really want to geek-up match the vinegar to the main dish you will serve along with the greens. Extra foodie fun…
What You Get: Flavorful greens with no cream, but plenty of flavor.
What You Need: No special equipment required. A Dutch oven will be helpful (yes, if you don’t have one, get one).
How Long? 1 hour, or less. 10 Minutes of prep and 30-50 minutes of cooking (depends on the greens). Anytime dish.
1/3 cup shelled roasted pistachios (optional, you can also use pine nuts or hazelnuts)
6 oz. pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 cup (2 large) shallots, thinly sliced
2 pounds of kale (or mustard, collard, turnip greens) chopped, with thick stems removed
1 cup of low-sodium chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon of packed brown sugar
1 pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 tablespoons of sweet butter
2 tablespoons of vinegar (see notes)
1. Place Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add pistachios and toast for 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. Add Pancetta to pot and cook until browned, 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add shallots to pan and cook until softened. About 3-5 minutes. Add half of the kale, brown sugar, cayenne and chicken stock. Cover and let the kale wilt for 1 minute. Add the rest of the kale, stir and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low, cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender.
4. When kale is tender, remove lid from pot and raise heat to medium high. Stir until most liquid is evaporated, about 5-10 minutes. Add pancetta, butter and vinegar and cook until butter melts, about 30 seconds (FYI- it is a good idea to add half of the vinegar and taste the kale before adding the rest). Remove from heat.
5. Sprinkle pistachios on kale and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.