kale crunch

Time for another Dark Days Challenge local foods report. Our last two meals were classics – grilled chicken and grilled pork chops. We do a fair amount of grilling in the winter. It’s oddly satisfying to stand on the snowy deck, fully bundled up, dreaming about about summer barbecues and cold drinks. And in fact I was in so much of summer mood that I couldn’t help myself. I cheated on local night. Once the thought of my all-time favorite summer bbq chicken recipe entered my head, I couldn’t shake it. I had to have it.

The bird itself came from just down the road. But the brine I soaked it in was anything but local. I e-mailed Mark at work and asked him to pick up the interloper on his way home – a liter of coke. Mixed with a half cup of kosher salt it makes a splendid bath for the butterflied and pierced chicken to soak in. After a quick towel off, I slather the bird with a paste of honey, olive oil, garlic, salt pepper, paprika, and dry mustard. Then onto the grill it goes, where it is promptly flattened beneath a few fire bricks. And it never fails to come off the grill crispy, salty, sweet, and juicy. For local night I made a honey mustard dipping sauce. It is also quite tasty with a bourbon based sauce, but I thought one non-local sin was enough for the night. We rounded out the meal with a baked butternut squash from the garden and roasted kale also from the garden, via the freezer.

Kale Crunch
I have many favorite ways to prepare kale, but my latest fixation is to simply coarsely chop it, spread it out on a heavy baking sheet, splash a little olive oil, salt, and pepper on it and roast it in a 250º oven for about a half hour until it is crispy. The result is something so crunchy and salty and earthy tasting that I have to seriously hold myself back from eating the entire tray of it in under 5 minutes. Kale? What kale? If it does stick around long enough to make it onto a serving platter, I generally give it a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for a little zing. It’s also quite magnificent to hold the leaves up to the light before popping them in your mouth – a visual and a taste sensation.

Meal seven of the challenge is somewhat of a winter standby for us – and one of our favorites. We always get a few extra packages of chops with our pork share, specifically with this recipe in mind. The original rendition came from a neighbor and friend of ours, Tony Thier. His is a skillet based version, but we generally prefer to cook our meat outdoors if we can. So we salt and pepper the chops and throw them on the grill. But instead of taking them off onto a serving plate, we put them in a pre-warmed heavy skillet and loosely tent them for a bit so some of the juices run of into the pan. The chops get moved to a warm plate and the pan juices are gently heated with a few generous spoonfuls of homemade sauerkraut. And to really knock it out of the park we stir in enough plain yogurt to make a creamy, tangy slurry to spoon back over the chops. Add in some warm buttered mashed potatoes and garlicly roasted brussel spouts and suddenly a 7 degree winter night doesn’t seem so bad.

Here’s to more darks days ahead!

4 Responses to “kale crunch”


  1. 1 Wendy January 18, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Oh my, those pork chops sound awesome!
    I’ve been toying with starting a batch of sourkraut… would you be willing to share how you make yours?

    Thanks for another batch of food-inspiration!

    • 2 GarlicPig January 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks Wendy! I just started experimenting with small quart sized batches. I use a recipe from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions as a starting point. She calls for 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 4 tablespoons whey. I get whey from straining my homemade plain yogurt overnight in cheese cloth. The yogurt turns into a thick, almost cream cheese like texture that I use for cooking and the whey I just store in a jar in the fridge. She also says you can use and additional tablespoon of slat instead of whey. I think the whey is just sort of a starter culture to help get the fermenting going. I also like to add a bit of celery seed. I think dill seed would be a good addition too.

      Any rate, all you do is mix the shredded cabbage, caraway seed, salt and whey in a ceramic or glass bowl and pound on it a bit with a wooden pounder (I use the end of a handless rolling pin I have) until some of the juices start to release (about 10 minute). Then you pack it tightly into a wide mouth quart jar – using the pounder as you go to really smash it in and keep the juices releasing. The cabbage should be about an inch below the top of the jar with liquid covering it. She just covers hers with a lid at this point and lets it sit at room temperature. I weight my down to make sure the cabbage stays submersed in the liquid. I use a filled honey jar that fits perfectly in the wide mouth opening. Then I cover the whole jar with a dish towel and let it sit in the pantry. You can start tasting it after a few days – it will continue to ferment and improve for as long as you leave it. Skim off any scum that forms on the top and whenever the kraut gets to your liking, transfer it to the fridge. Super easy! I have read that the older the cabbage, the less water it will release. If this is the case, add some salt water to cover.

  2. 3 Julie January 18, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Where did you get the kale? I want the BBQ chicken recipe.

    • 4 GarlicPig January 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Kale is from the garden – frozen. I actually went out after the first super hard freeze with a few zip locks and removed all the remaining frozen kale leaves, just breaking up the leaves into the bags, straight from the plants. It worked great!

      For the chicken – that’s pretty much the recipe. I give Mark the dirty job of butterflying the chicken. Google it for a play by play. Basically you want to end up with 2 sort of flattened chicken halves. Once you’ve got that part done, soak it in the brine (1 liter coke and 1/2 cup kosher salt – it foams up like mad when you stir in the salt, so be warned!) for a few hours. Blot it dry after its bath and spread the paste over it. Roughly I mix a scant 1/4 of olive oil, with about 2 tablespoons of honey (your grated maple sugar would be a great alternative – I’m going to have to try that next time!) Then add in about 1 tablespoon each of kosher salt, ground pepper, garlic (powdered or fresh), dry mustard, and a little less paprika. I let this sit for about 20 minutes before sending it out to the grill. We’ve used a big cast iron skillet to hold the bricks – or lately just an extra grill grate right on the chicken with the bricks on top of that. Grill it on the cooler side of the grill for about 10 minutes, then rotate the whole shebang and grill for another 10 minutes, then remove the bricks, flip the chicken halves and finish off grilling (without the bricks) until it’s done.

      For the sauce, I just simmer 1/8 cup honey, 1/8 cup mustard, 1/8 cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt until it’s thick and bubbly. Double it if you want plenty of sauce.


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