Braised Kale For The Communal Table

The Food Network, in honor of Thanksgiving, is celebrating a “Virtual Thanksgiving” called The Communal Table on Wednesday, November 16. Think of it as a cyber potluck. Anyone in the food community is invited to attend – food websites and small bloggers (like myself) alike will be sharing what we are “bringing” to The Communal Table. Within each post will be links to the other sites. People everywhere can look and read and salivate over what everyone is offering. Not only will it be a great way to share recipes, but a great opportunity for small fish like me to get more exposure.

The only problem after hearing about this opportunity was what to make… The first thing that came to mind was stuffing. I’m a stuffing lover. Yes, stuffing, not dressing; dressing makes it sound less appealing, as if it is something that is supposed to go on top of or accompany something else. Unlike dressing, stuffing reaps the benefits of a meaty soak in turkey juices since it actually cooks inside the bird instead of in a separate casserole dish the way dressing does. I’d be quite happy with just a huge heap of stuffing and nothing else. The ratio of stuffing to other items on my plate is usually three parts stuffing, one part everything else. It has always been this way, and you will never change me.

It’s a shame that one doesn’t get to enjoy stuffing but once a year. But that being said, if I brought my Mom’s famous stuffing with mirepoix, sage, and chestnuts to The Communal Table, it would spoil its splendor come Turkey Day. Part of the fun is the 364-day anticipation of this once-a-year treat.

I thought about doing another stuffing. I’m always open to new stuffing recipes; but it’s such a rare occasion that Thanksgiving isn’t cooked by Mom, I couldn’t think of a stuffing that sounded better than hers – especially right out of the bird, moist and turkey fat-filled.

Thanksgiving is Mom’s day. She has a strategic plan to pulling off Thanksgiving dinner. Like a perfectly executed mission, she plots and plans days in advance, scribbling notes and shopping lists on the backs of junk-mail envelopes, before developing one composed catalog on lined paper with columns and bullet points. She then braves the throngs of people at the supermarket equally stocking up on sweet potatoes, turkeys, and canned cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving at Mom’s house is always 100% from scratch. Many dishes that have been a staple in our household were once staples when she was a child, handed down from her mother, which were handed down from her mother. Stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, pies–even bread rolls–all start as a recipe on paper rather than from a box or a can on a shelf that can be prepared in five minutes or less.

As the day draws near, the cooking begins days in advance: the smells of sugar pie pumpkins and chestnuts roasting fill the house with the sweet scent of brown and orange and autumn. Bread is cubed and dried for stuffing; cranberries macerate in a pot with sugar and orange juice, bubbling into crimson.

The day of, you’d be impressed to find that she is the only one cooking in the kitchen. If you could watch the seamless flow of work, you would be amazed. Stuffing is completed and stuffed inside the bird, the bird goes in the oven, sweet potatoes are mashed, vegetables are steamed, rolls are baked; all in just a few hours, before the table is set for the feast.

So as you can see, I can’t touch any of my mother’s recipes; I had to come up with something of my own.

One thing I never really eat much of on Thanksgiving are vegetables. Being a stuffing lover, I’m all about the carbs on Turkey day. Vegetables seem like an unnecessary waste of space in my stomach. But my mother taught me better than that, and I know the value of a well-rounded meal. So in an attempt to improve on the vegetable situation, I thought I’d do something that I pride myself on: braised greens. Combining kale (my favorite of all the leafy greens) and caramelized onions with a little pancetta (’cause you can’t go wrong with a little pork fat), these greens are a crowd pleaser.  I’d seen a similar recipe when I was perusing Epicurious a while back, so this is my rif on this surprisingly rich side dish. Happy Thanksgiving!

And don’t forget to pull up a chair and feast upon all the other participants recipes!

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Eat Be Mary: She’s Mulling It Over Wine
Cookistry: Bread With Ancient Grains
Celebrity Chefs and Their Gardens: The American Hotel Peconic Clam Chowder
Picky Eater Blog: Butternut Squash Soup With Thyme and Parmesan
Good Food Good Friends: Mushroom Soup

Mains: Grilled Quail with a Warm Beet, Frisée, and Pistachio Salad
She Wears Many Hats: Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey

Living Mostly Meatless: Vegan-Friendly Corn Casserole
Healthy Green Kitchen: Red Kuri Squash Pie
The Naptime Chef: Crispy Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes
Gluten-Free Blondie: Apple and Cranberry Studded Stuffing
Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat: Blue Cheese and Rosemary Celebration Potatoes
Burnt Lumpia: Turkey, Sweet Potato and Cranberry Empanadas
Panfusine: Pan Fried Polenta Seasoned With Cumin, Ginger & Black Pepper
Homemade Cravings: Warm Brussels Sprouts and Cranberry Slaw
Bakeaholic Mama: Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Crispy Prosciutto
Show Food Chef: Beer-Braised Brussels Sprouts
T’s Tasty Bits: Sweet Empanadas with Pumpkin and Lupini Beans Filling
The Amused Bouche Blog: Braised Kale
The Little Kitchen: How to Make the Perfect Mashed Potatoes

The Macaron Queen: Macaron Tower
Poet In The Pantry: Amaretto Apple Crisp
Farm Girl Gourmet: Pumpkin Coconut Panna Cotta
That’s Forking Good: Cinnamon Chip Pumpkin Blondies
Out of the Box Food: Out of the Box Food Maple Pumpkin Pie
Cake Baker 35: Orange Spiced Pumpkin Pie
Lisa Michele: Pumpkin, Pecan, Cheesecake Pie
Food For My Family: Buttermilk Custard Pear Pie
Simple Bites: Black-Bottom Maple Pumpkin Pie
A Cooks Nook: Swedish Apple Pie
Yakima Herald: Pretzel Jell-O Salad
How Does She: Three of Our Favorite Desserts
Dollhouse Bake Shoppe: Thanksgiving Candy Bar Name Plates
Sweet Fry: Pumpkin Latte
Tasty Trials: Spiced Apple Panna Cotta With Caramelized Apples and Caramel Sauce
An Uneducated Palate: Puff Pastry Apple Tart
Frugal Front Porch: Mini Cheaty Cheesecakes

Even more:
Kitchen Courses: Thanksgiving for Six People Under $60
A Curious Palate: The Communal Table

Braised Kale With Caramelized Onions And Pancetta

2 1/4 lbs Tuscan kale, stems and center ribs removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 large medium onion, thinly sliced

1 whole head of garlic, halved horizontally

3 to 4 cups unsalted chicken stock


Add pancetta to medium-high heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate. Reserve 1/4 cup of fat in pot.

Add to pot: onions, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes (add olive oil if needed – if pot becomes too dry). Return pancetta to pot. Stir in kale and add stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer until kale is very tender, about 25 minutes. Then remove lid and boil mixture, stirring occasionally, until almost all of liquid is evaporated, about 20-25 minutes. Discard garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.


26 responses to “Braised Kale For The Communal Table

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  20. I love kale…this is a great recipe

  21. Pingback: Homemade Cravings – Warm Brussels Sprouts and Cranberry Slaw

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