Thogg tells me over and over again that he hates kale. He loves my dehydrated kale chips, but so far has been very adamant about not liking them any other way. (Here’s the kale chip recipe if you’re interested.) I’m stubborn, so this was a personal challenge to me. I often believe that when it comes to getting picky eaters to try something new you should start out with the “Two out of three rule”: give them at least two (or more) things that they love and then sneak in one new thing. This is how I got Thogg to try out mushrooms. I made him beef stroganoff (a lightened version) that had plenty of meat, pasta and creaminess. I snuck in thinly sliced white button mushrooms (which are one of the mildest mushrooms). He gave it a wary look, took a bite, and then proceeded to gobble it up. One of these days I’ll have to remember to take some pics of my stroganoff so I can include the recipe on my blog.
For kale, I decided to give Thogg some familiar and comforting flavors: bacon, sauteed shallots, and lightly browned garlic. A little bit of lemon zest and lemon juice helped balance the bacon and tamed the natural bitterness of the kale. If you know you’re going to be cooking for someone exceptionally sensitive to bitter flavor, you can try using winter or spring kale, which is naturally less bitter than summer-grown kale.
Bitter is a flavor that many Americans have not learned to embrace, but if used lightly and then balanced properly it can still be enjoyable to even the most finicky palate. In many parts of Asia, China for example, they believe that a dish without all the flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami is a dish that is lacking completeness.
Finding a good balance in hopes of creating something that better than the sum of its parts is what I set out to do. The bacon gives us salty, sweet is brought in by the onions, garlic and a small pinch of sugar, sour comes from the lemon, bitter is in the kale, and umami comes from the bacon again.
The result, in Thogg’s words “yum”. I got an even bigger thumbs up when I used my sauteed kale as a non-traditional stuffing to roast chicken. I’m sure the extra chicken-y goodness didn’t hurt. (click here for the chicken recipe)
- 1.5 Tbs fresh bacon drippings
- about 5 slices of cooked Applewood smoked bacon – cooked well but not crisped
- 1 large bunch of kale – veins removed, washed and ripped into bite size pieces
- 3 asian shallots (or one of the larger american shallots) – sliced thin
- 4 to 5 cloves of garlic – minced
- zest from 1 meyer lemon
- juice from 1/2 of a juicy meyer lemon
- salt and pepper – to taste
- 1/2 Tbs sugar
- In a large pan, saute the shallots in the bacon fat until they just begin to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for another minute.
- Add the washed and drained kale to the pan, turn down the heat down to medium. Add the lemon zest and juice, sugar, and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Cover the pan with a lid, or large plate to keep the heat in. After a minute or so, uncover and give it a stir. Cover again for another 30 seconds to a minute. By now your kale should be mostly wilted.
- While the kale is cooking, slice your bacon into thin pieces (between 1/8″ and 1/4″ long). Once the kale is wilted add the chopped bacon. Give it a stir, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Eat as a side or try using it to stuff pork loin or a chicken galantine.