Dinosaur kale and smoky monsters

Lee and I love kale. We like it so much that we have no plans to grow collard greens again. Kale is flavorful but not bitter, it’s more tender then collard greens, you don’t have to cut out the stems, and it cooks faster. I love how we can start 6 plants in the spring and harvest leaves all summer. Our favorite variety is Dinosaur kale, also called Lacinato kale.

Dinosaur kale, Italian kale, Tuscan kale, etc.

Lee here. — The best collard greens I’ve ever had come from a small Alabama-style food joint in our area. (If you live in the south Willamette Valley, here’s a link. I recommend their whole menu.) Their version is slow cooked in a spicy sauce with smoked meat. It’s amazing, but it can’t be easily reproduced at home on short notice. I’ve scoured the web for a simpler spicy greens recipes and turned up empty. Either I have the wrong search terms, or the good ones are all buried under a murky lake of kale smoothies.

Since I couldn’t find a decent recipe, I invented my own. It took a few tries to get the details right, but Robin makes a good test subject for my food experiments and Sidney eats almost everything. Even if you don’t generally like collard greens, you might find that this version makes you want to work on your hypothyroidism (a potential side effect of eating too much kale).

Smoky Monster Kale Recipe

Prep time: 20 mins – Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon (or substitute 2 Tbsp olive oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1/4 cup whiskey or scotch* (it doesn’t need to be top shelf, but it needs to be smoky)
  • 1 bunch of Dinosaur kale (8 oz), chopped across the leaves into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
  • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • 2 Tsp cumin
  • 1 Tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 Tsp cayenne pepper (optional, if you like heat)
  • 1/4 Tsp pepper

Method

  1. Slowly cook the bacon in a large saucepan until crispy. While you wait, chop your garlic, onions, and kale. Turn bacon occasionally. When the bacon is done, remove to a paper-towel lined plate. If the bacon was particularly lean, add a bit more olive oil.
  2. Sauté onions in rendered bacon fat over medium heat. Add garlic a few minutes later. Cook until onions are translucent.
  3. Deglaze pan with whiskey/scotch. Scrape up any bits of fond. Cook briefly until most liquid evaporates.
  4. Lower the heat a little and add chopped kale in handfuls, stirring to encourage them to wilt so they all fit. Add chicken broth or water to provide liquid for steaming. Add salt and stir. Briefly bring to a boil and then reduce heat and steam with the lid on for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add remaining spices and fresh ground pepper. Continue cooking greens with the lid off for another 10 minutes.
  6. Taste for tenderness, salt and spice and adjust accordingly. Spice experimentation is encouraged. Perhaps you’d prefer smoked paprika instead of cumin?
  7. Serve into separate bowls and top with crumbled bacon. This dish holds well in the pan at low heat, so it’s a nice one to pair with other items which have less predictable timing.

* Footnote: The whiskey/scotch provides an important smoky flavor which cannot be omitted to the same effect. We discovered the joys of cooking with whiskey a few years ago when we substituted scotch we didn’t like for the wine in a roast recipe and it turned out wonderful. If you don’t have any handy bottles of scotch you don’t like, there are a few alternative sources of smoky flavor: use extra smoky bacon, add a smoke flavoring such as liquid smoke or ground Lapsong Souchong tea (which smells exactly like a campfire), use smoked spices (such as smoked cumin or paprika), or use fresh Dashi stock as the liquid.

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