Posts Tagged ‘cavolo nero’

Cavolo Nero…with bacon, of course and grilled Rib-eyes

August 30, 2008

The seasons are changing. I can smell it. There’s something in the air…a quality of light…a shadow that wasn’t there before. Each season brings its own visceral memories. With the approach of fall, I’m starting to get ants in my pants. I’ve got some little tickle deep down in my gut…the ‘going-back-to school’ tickle. I get a little rush of energy every year at this time. Something about the smoky, burnt sienna air makes me want to go out and buy new pencils. I also find myself grilling all the time…making the most of the summer bounty…and yet, I have this nagging urge to start making fall food, like roasts and stews and slow-cooked things.

Growing up in Houston, the signs of fall were there: back-to-school catalogs, Halloween decorations going up in the stores, marching band practice, football. I always wanted to wear my brand new sweaters and kilts with the safety pin and the knee socks with penny loafers. I would pick out my best new outfit for the first day of school…something woolen and plaid and forest green. After all, that was what was in the pages of Seventeen magazine, it must be what EVERYONE who is ANYONE is wearing. It was very important that I have the RIGHT outfit for the first day of school. Invariably, I would be peeling off layers within 5 minutes of standing at the bus stop.

The opposite would happen in winter…I would rebel against wearing a coat. None of my coats matched and I wanted people to see my one good outfit, so I would sit at the bus stop red-nosed, shivering and pretending my visible breath was cigarette smoke. I’m never quite in sync with the seasons, always impatient for the next one and not appreciating the one I’m in. It’s a bit of a metaphor for my life, I need to start appreciating the season I am in instead of coveting the one just around the corner. It’ll be here soon enough…no need to rush it. I mean, all I can do these days is wish for Maggie to hit the next developmental milestone and then, it seems like she hits a bunch in one day and then I’m like: “OK, slow the hell down, choochy…this is going way too fast. Woaaa cowgirl…let’s not crawl yet…Mama’s not ready for that.”

But…as usual, I digress. Where were we…back to school…fall…summer’s bounty….grilling…oh yeah, grilling. I wanted some red meat the other day. I went to Whole Paycheck the other day to see what inspired me. I was kind of craving red meat, so it was a given that I’d be grilling but I also wanted something that made me think of fall. Kale makes me think of fall…so does bacon…big surprise. I went with Prime Rib-Eye steaks and Tuscan Kale, otherwise known as Cavolo Nero…and also known as Dino Kale. Now, in my bacon defense, I don’t usually make this particular kale recipe with bacon. I usually just use olive oil, garlic and shallots….all vegetarian-friendly, for all my buddies who don’t eat meat and are having a hard time finding things in my blog to cook. I got this recipe directly from Suzanne Goin, who is one of my chef idols. She serves it at her restaurant
A.O.C. as a small plate. I order it every time I am there. When my wine group had an event there, I was able to speak with her and that’s the first thing I asked: “How do you get that kale so caramelized? What’s in it? Why does it taste so good?” It’s a very simple recipe: blanch the kale and then sauté it in olive oil, shallots and garlic until it cooks down so much that it’s like a confit. Most places don’t cook it long enough. Not that I don’t like it sautéed simply with garlic and olive oil and red pepper, as most places do it. But, A.O.C. makes it so that it’s almost like kale candy. This is the key to this dish. Me likey kale candy. So, that’s what I was in the mood for but I added bacon to the recipe. Feel free to omit that part, my veggie brothers and sisters.

Back to the meat…did I mention the meat yet?? Rib-eyes again..but they’re so good!

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I know…I know…I’ve done the steaks before. This is more about the kale. I’m using 4 bunches. They shrink down a lot. First things first…get a big pot of salted water boiling on the stove and then remove the stalks from the kale.

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This will take a while with 4 bunches but the stalks don’t really soften up, so you’re going to want them gone. This is a good job to give a kid. (or a spouse) Just sit them down with a bowl of kale and put them to work. I can’t wait until Maggie is old enough to give jobs like this to. So far, she’s been slacking. She can’t get away with that forever. Of course, if she’s anything like her parents, I’m sure she’ll try.

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Once you’re done taking the stalks off, wash the kale well in a couple of changes of water. This kale has a lot of nooks and crannies that get filled up with sand and bugs and stuff.

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By this time, your pot of water should be boiling. Blanch the kale in batches, if necessary. This will get it started and remove any bits of sand etc. that you missed. I usually throw the kale in the boiling water and then leave it in for about 5 minutes or so…usually until the water comes back to a boil.

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Meanwhile, heat up your skillet with whatever fat you choose. I’m using the bacon fat that’s left over in the pan from breakfast. I also have a few pieces of bacon that I’ll crumble up and throw in the with the kale. If you’re doing a vegetarian version…mushrooms might be nice too.

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After the kale as blanched, just drain it somewhat and add it to the hot skillet. It might spatter a bit at first but then the water will mix with the fat and coat all the leaves and help cook it down.

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Just keep sautéing the kale over medium high heat. If it starts to stick at all, add some broth to loosen it up.

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While it’s cooking, chop up some shallots and garlic…about 1 big shallot and 2 cloves of garlic.

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Once the kale has cooked down considerably, add the shallots and garlic to the pan and stir them in. The reason why you don’t add them at the beginng is that they’ll end up burned before you get the kale cooked down enough.

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I’m not delving too deeply into the subject of the steaks themselves. Y’all can ready my previous steak blog for directions there. I didn’t do anything too fancy, just shook some of The Chachere over them and grilled them up with some vegetables and crusty bread drizzled in olive oil.

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While all that was grilling, I was still cooking that kale down. You’ll see it starts to get all caramelized and even crispy in places. It takes about an hour to get it to where I want it.

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This is a kind of blurry pic but those 4 bunches of kale should cook down to this tiny amount by the time you’re done:

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The kale is great as a bruschetta topping or on it’s own. It’s also delicious tossed with pasta with crumbled Italian sausage. We’re just eating it slathered on the bread I grilled. Oh, and with it, we’re drinking a 1997 Turley “Vineyard 101” Zinfandel from my cellar.

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For dessert, we are having what I consider to be one of the world’s most perfect cheeses:
Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, an AMERICAN, triple-cream, cow’s milk cheese from Northern California. (Sister to one of the world’s other most perfect cheeses: Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk, a cow’s milk, washed-rind cheese similar to the
French Époisses. I highlight American, because there is such a prejudice against American cheeses. A lot of people still don’t think good cheese is made anywhere but Europe, so they’ll go out of their way to buy over-the-hill, pasteurized versions of French cheeses they’ve heard about rather than trying one of the amazing artisinal American cheeses that are available here.

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To take advantage of the delicious, late summer night, we’re eating outside again. We’re fortunate that we can pretty much do that year-round here in LA. In Houston, it’s almost always too hot, humid and buggy for that. One of these days, I’d like to have a nice set-up like my friend Rachel has, with an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven. But, until then, we just grill a lot.

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