Braised Kale with Pancetta and Carmelized Onions

I have a thing for prehistoric-looking food. Kohlrabi, bitter melons, funky-looking winter squash are in this category. If it looks like it’s been cultivated for a few thousand years I want to try it.

I couldn’t resist buying a pound of Tuscan (lacinato) kale at the farmers market Saturday. It definitely fits the prehistoric bill.  Its leaves are green-black and crinkled, giving it the nickname dinosaur kale.  People have been growing it for more than 2,000 years. I stuck the gigantic bundle into my straw bag without a clue what I’d do with it.

I ended up buying some red kale, too, and tried this recipe that also called for pancetta and carmelized onions. The result was delicious. Even though kale is jam-packed with nutrition, this side dish is not exactly lite. This is best paired with fish or chicken, something not too heavy.

Braised Lacinato Kale with Pancetta and Carmelized Onions

Gourmet Today

2 ¼ pounds lacinato kale, stems and center ribs discarded


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¼ pound sliced pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon) cut into ¼-inch dice

2 fresh thyme sprigs

1 Turkish bay leaf or ½ California bay leaf

2 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs

2 loarge onions, finely chopped

1 head garlic, halved horizontally (left unpeeled)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 ¾ cups chicken stock

¼ cup water

Freshly ground pepper

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Blanch kale in 2 batches in a 6- to 8-quart pot boiling salted water for 2 minutes per batch and transfer with tongs to a colander. Drain well.

Heat oil in 5- to 6-quart pot over moderate heat until warm. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate; discard all but 3 tablespoons fat from pot.

Tie thyme, bay leaf, and parsley together with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni and add to fat in pot, along with onions and garlic. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Return pancetta to pot, add butter, and cook, stirring occasionally, until melted. Stir in kale, stock and water, increase heat to high, and bring to a simmer.

Cover kale with a round of parchment paper, transfer pot to oven, and braise, stirring once or twice, until very tender, about 45 minutes.

Transfer pot to stovetop, discard parchment, and boil, stirring occasionally, until almost all of liquid has evaporated but kale is still moist, about 15 minutes. Discard bouquet garni and garlic and season kale with salt and pepper.

* Kale can be braised up to 1 day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered. Reheat before serving.


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