This Ain’t Your Gran’ Momma’s Kale

0
IMG_7020

Creamed kale with mushrooms, onions, and Asiago…you’ve never had it so good! This ain’t your Gran’ Momma’s kale!

Oh The Mighty Kale. Everyone’s lovin’ it. And it’s everywhere. And it’s not always so tasty. I can certainly understand why some folks scrunch up their noses, curl their upper lip, and proceed to lambaste the very existence of kale. I too can conjure up those images of piles of soggy, stinky, greenish-black (think Charleston Green) kale that my cooking forebearers served up.  Yes, cooking kale can be a bit tricky but with a little practice you’ll be lovin’ it.  This recipe is pretty darn quick and simple and can be eaten as a side dish or you can add a bit more cheese and cream and serve it over pasta.  This also goes nicely with a grilled chicken breast or pork loin for those non-grain eaters.  For you ‘rooter-to-tooter’ eaters, roast up some marrow bones and serve this on the side or on top of the bones.  So come on now, close your eyes, take a big breath, and promise me you’ll give The Mighty Kale another try. I promise you won’t be sorry!

Creamed Kale with Sautéed Mushrooms, Onions, and Asiago

  • 1.5 pounds of kale (about 2 bunches), stems removed, blanched and drained
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced, cooked
  • 1/2 sweet onion, sliced
  • 3 TBSP butter (raw or cultured if you have it)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (I’ve used allspice or mace in a pinch, but nutmeg is definitely the best choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Bacon, jowl bacon, or lardons

Remove the center stems, roughly chop, blanch, and drain your kale.  Cook your mushrooms to your liking (in a pan with a bit of room between each mushroom, flipping only once is ideal).  If you’re using a bacon product, cook it over medium heat until crisp, letting the fat render, and remove it to a paper towel to drain. Try not to eat all of it. Save the fat to saute your onions. If you’re not a pig lover (*gasp*) just use a few teaspoons of your favorite oil (roasted walnut is a nice choice).

IMG_7008

Cut down either side of the center stem to remove it–then roughly chop your kale.

IMG_7010

Blanch your kale—seriously, it looks (and tastes) so much more edible after blanching!

IMG_7013

Cook up your mushrooms…

Continuing over a medium heat, saute your onions in your choice of fat until translucent and tender.

IMG_7016

Let your onions become translucent.

Add your nutmeg to ‘bloom’ (big ol’ fancy talk for letting it heat a bit, allowing the aromatic oils to release).  Cook the nutmeg over medium heat, stirring, for about 30 seconds or so.  Heap in your kale.  Add the cream and cheese, stirring to coat. Cook until the cream has thickened, the cheese had incorporated, and your kale is tender.  This should take about 5 minutes or so.  The kale should still be a bit ‘toothy’, or have some body to it. Cook it a bit more if you’d like, but don’t overcook it or you’ll have a bitter mess!  Add the mushrooms, and the porky bits if you’re using them, and toss gently to mix them in with the kale and cream sauce.

IMG_7018

Startin’ to look tasty!

Now go to town! Pair it up with your favorite meat (beef, pork, and duck work very well). Or maybe you’ll like it with those marrow bones or over toast points with an over-easy fried egg.  Or–oh my gosh-with a ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich!  Now, go run call your Gran’ Momma and tell her you actually do love kale…as for me, I’m off to hunt down that ooey gooey grilled cheese to make friendly with my kale!

IMG_7020

What?! And you thought you didn’t like kale??

Blanching Greens

5

Okay. This topic might sound a bit simple, or unnecessary.  BUT I’ve found lots of folks who don’t know how or why you should blanch greens.  If you’re no stranger to greens, you know they can be bitter and pungent.  Blanching often reduces this bitterness.  Don’t believe me?  Peel some outer leaves off of brussel sprouts, blanch quickly, shock in ice, and serve with a citrus vinaigrette.  You’ve just made a sweet, tasty salad out of one of the most despised vegetables. No bitterness or funk to be found. Blanching can also reduce cooking times.  Thinking about adding greens to a pasta dish?  It’ll be faster, and tastier if they’re blanched.  Blanching also lets you add greens to other dishes–like a quiche. If you didn’t blanch them and squeeze out the liquid first you’d have egg, greens, and cheese soup! If none of this convinces you of the merits of blanching…let’s go with ‘it just makes the colors so darn pretty’.

Now that we’ve learned the merits of blanching, don’t stop at greens.  Blanching other vegetables can work in your favor too.  Blanched green beans turn out sweet but still crunchy and are perfect for a Salad Nicoise (or a snack!).  Blanch a tomato to help the skin slip off.  Blanch tiny baby carrots to make them even sweeter while retaining some firmness. Or blanch fresh corn or field peas prior to freezing in order to retain freshness (it kills natural bacteria on the skin that can produce off tastes later).

  • Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl with both ice and water.  Nest your sieve or colander down in the bowl and set it aside (the nesting makes it easier to strain away the water).
  • Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As Chef Thomas Keller states, “It should taste like sea water in the summer”.
  • Working in small batches, gently place your greens (or other veggies) in the boiling water. Be careful to maintain a boil throughout. The idea is to cook the veggies as quickly as possible.  Small batches and a high salt content help keep the water boiling so the veggies cook as quickly as possible.
  • Watch for the color to ‘pop’.  Don’t worry, you’ll see it.  The veggies will get much brighter.  Now, if you’re still wanting a crunch to them, pull them out with a slotted spoon or skimmer.  If you’d like, you can cook them until your preferred firmness. If you like a super squishy vegetable (I hope not!), there are probably better methods of cooking them so there’s more flavor. Too long in the pot and you’re just boiling the veggies. They will look sad and depressing and taste like, well, water. We all know from our school cafeteria days what a boiled veggie looks like! No. Thank. You.
  • Plunge them into the ice bath and cool completely to stop the cooking.  You can season and eat as is or you can saute, roast, or add them to other preparations. Go wild!

Next time you’re cooking up some fresh veggies, give blanching a go. You might just find you like those brussel sprouts after all!

Check out these unblanched greens…

IMG_7008

Unblanched kale. Lovely, but a little dull.

Now, check out the same kale after blanching…

IMG_7010

Gorgeous! And super tasty…no bitterness to be found!