Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recipe: Cream Gravy with Kale and Bacon

Bright green kale in a thick, pale brown cream sauce. Bits of crumbled bacon and the edge of a large, soft biscuit are also visible.

Friends, I've fallen into a kale rut.

Kale is a staple of my diet in the summer, when it's cheap and fresh and oh-so easy to turn into something delicious and nutritious, but I fear I almost always prepare it the same way: braised, with bacon. Braised kale with bacon is undeniably tasty, but it's also... well, the same thing over and over again.

Last weekend I decided to branch out. I decided to experiment.

Another of my favourite dishes is cream gravy, a sauce popular in the American South. Cream gravy combines bacon or sausage drippings with milk or cream to make a thick, delectable splodge that works well atop biscuits, fried potatoes, or any old thing you'd eat with regular gravy.

I started wondering how it'd taste with kale in the mix.

Pretty durned good, as it turns out.

I know, I know; the picture above, she does not inspire confidence. This dish ain't gonna win any beauty contests, but trust me: if you like kale and cream gravy all by themselves, you're gonna love them together.

Ingredients

Per person, you'll need:

  • two pieces bacon
  • one cup kale, shredded
  • 1/2 cup broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
  • 1/2 tbsp bacon grease
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (or cream, if you're feeling fancy)
  • biscuits or some pasta to serve it over

Instructions

Begin with the bacon, please. Fry it up in a medium to large pan until it's nice and crispy, but not burnt. (Unless you like burnt bacon, in which case: burn away.)

Set the bacon on a paper towel to drain. Pour the bacon grease out and add the broth to the still warm pan.

Plunk your shredded kale into the broth and give it a good toss so it's nice and damp. Cook it over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the broth has been completely absorbed and the kale is nice and wilted. This usually takes 8-10 minutes.

Bright green kale in a black-bottomed pan. The kale is damp and glistening. It's just begun to wilt.
This kale is about halfway done.

Set the kale aside. In a smaller pan, melt the bacon grease over medium heat and blend it with the flour. Keep on cooking this roux until it's a deep brown and looks more or less like a paste.

Slowly add the milk to the roux, stirring all the while to ensure it blends nicely. Press out any lumps and continue to cook the mixture until it begins to thicken. It should turn a rather gorgeous shade of pale brown.

Once the gravy is most of the way to thick, but not quite there yet, crumble in the bacon and give it a good stir. Add the kale and stir it up again so everything's fully combined.

A small, black-bottomed pan filled with pale brown sauce liberally seeded with dark green kale and bits of brown bacon

Eat your cream gravy with kale and bacon however you please, just so long as you get it on a plate immediately after it's finished. I had mine on top of a cheddar garlic biscuit (delicious!), but I'm sure it's equally good with pasta, or even just in a bowl by itself.

If cream sauces aren't really your thing, fear not! You can eat the kale and bacon all by their lonesome, too. To modify the recipe into straight braised kale and bacon, cook the bacon as outlined above but don't pour out the grease. Toss the kale in the melted grease, then add the broth and cook it over medium-high heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. You can also add one clove (or one teaspoon) of minced garlic, if you are so inclined.

Place the kale atop pasta (or in a bowl) and crumble the bacon onto it. Voila! You've made my favourite dinner.

It's equally good with chopped chicken sausages, though they give off so little fat as they cook that you'll need to add some bacon grease to the pan once it comes time to braise the kale.

A pasta bowl decorated with leaf-like designs in blue and gold and filled with spiral pasta. Dark green wilted kale sits atop the pasta, while brown chunks of chopped chicken sausages stud the kale.

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