Quick comfort: Meat and potatoes (and kale)

by Terry B on April 4, 2012

Nutrient-rich kale and turkey sausage give Braised Kale with Potatoes and Sausage a lighter, healthier touch while keeping it totally in the comfort food category. Recipe below.

Looking back over recent posts, I noticed a distinct lack of meat-and-potatoes, stick-to-your-ribs food. In fact, the entire month of March had somehow been, if not meat-free, then certainly meat light. So a return of seasonably chilly, windy weather had me thinking meat-and-potatoes comfort food. Happily, a big bunch of kale in the fridge gave me an idea for taking it in a healthy direction too.

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. The winter vegetable is excellent source of cancer-fighting antioxidant vitamins A, C and K. Kale is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin compounds, both good for eye health, and a good source of minerals. It’s high in fiber too and can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Besides all that, it just tastes good. Milder than its relatives broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, kale adds a pleasant bitter bite to dishes that plays well with—and stands up to—other big flavors.

I already had sausage in mind for this dish, and the kale made me decide to lighten that up a little too. I chose turkey kielbasa, lower in fat and calorie count. Another advantage of sausage, turkey or otherwise, is that its big flavor means you don’t need a lot of it. I used six ounces for this dish that generously served two, with some leftovers.

And then there’s the potato. It gets a bad rap, due in large part to it frequently being deep fried or served with mountains of butter and sour cream. But on its own, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, the much maligned potato is a “low calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.” The site goes on to say that the potato’s phytochemicals levels rival those in broccoli.

And the results? Satisfyingly meaty and potato-y, with plenty of greens to make it a complete one-pot meal. Nothing complex or delicate here (unless you count the nice little something added by the tarragon, a last minute decision). And uncomplicatedly delicious.

Braised Kale with Potatoes and Sausage
Generously serves 2, with possible leftovers

1/2 pound kale
1 pound potatoes, about 3 medium, peeled and cubed
olive oil
6 ounces kielbasa or smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch coins
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup dry white wine

Rinse kale under cold running water, shaking off excess liquid. Tear from thick stems and rip into largish pieces. Discard stems. You want about 8 cups packed of the torn kale (this will seem an alarmingly large amount, but it cooks down considerably). If you use pre-washed, pre-chopped kale, often sold in bags in the produce section, go by volume rather than weight. Set aside.

Place potato cubes in a microwaveable lidded container and microwave until just tender, about 2 to 4 minutes (or longer, if necessary—potatoes vary wildly in how long this takes). Set aside.

Heat a large, lidded nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté sausage coins until browned, turning frequently, about 5 or 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with slotted spoon. Add potatoes and onion to pan, drizzling in more oil, if needed. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, stirring frequently to keep onions from burning. Push vegetables to the side and add garlic and tarragon. Cook until fragrant, stirring, about 45 seconds.

Add broth and wine to skillet. Add kale in big handfuls, tossing to coat with liquid. Again, the amount of kale will seem alarming, but work it all in, cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. I have a glass-lidded skillet, and at first, the kale was pushing up against the lid. That’s okay. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The kale will reduce quite a bit in volume. Stir in the sausage, along with any accumulated juices, and cover the pan again. Cook until kale and potatoes are just tender, another 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You’ll note there isn’t a lot in the way of liquids left at this point; they will have mostly been absorbed by the potatoes and/or steamed off. But everything will be coated with a nice, light, flavorful glaze. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) April 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Years ago, before I really came to appreciate kale, I was taught a recipe by a Dutch friend that had these same three ingredients: kale, potatoes, sausage. This post makes me want to go back into my recipe box and find that old recipe. I remember the potatoes and kale being mashed, or smashed.

kitchenriffs April 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Nice, easy dish – and I’ll bet it tastes terrific. What more could one want? I love kale because it has great flavor and is so versatile, and this recipe is a nice showcase for it. I’ve seen recipes similar to this, but never made one. This would also be a terrific recipe if you substitute lentils and rice (maybe an Indian dal thingy); but of course then it wouldn’t be meat and potatoes, which is the whole point! Nice recipe, nice photo – thanks.

randi April 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

This has comfort food written all over it. I don;t know why I never think to use kielbasa for dinner. I only seem to think of it as an appetizer or snack. Lydia, being Dutch I know exactly the meal you are talking about (boerenkool). It is delicious, yet my family couldn’t care less. This is a nice change.

Terry B April 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Lydia, I came across a few recipes that took this approach—including some that referred to the Dutch heritage that Randi mentions below. If you end up making it again, I’d love to see the results!

Kitchenriffs—Experiment away! Lentils would play nicely with the flavors here, or with the Indian dal approach you discussed. Marion once used kale’s cousin, chard, for a delicious Turkish Style Red Lentil Soup with Chard.

I hope you try this, Randi! The chunks of potatoes and kielbasa make for a satisfying, flavorful meal.

Robert Richards April 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Now this recipe excites me a lot! I’m gonna have to make it this coming weekend for sure.

Patricia April 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I like kale. I grow both Portuguese and Lacinto (Tuscan) kale. We eat a lot of it. In the picture above your kale looks virtually uncooked. I find uncooked kale a great deal of work for my jaws….more than I care to dedicate to my dinner. However, the recipe indicates the kale is properly cook, and should be a delight to eat.
Maybe dressing up for the camera isn’t always the best way.

altadenahiker April 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm

A lovely neighbor gave me a giant grocery bag filled with greens and chard from her garden. I’m going to follow this recipe, but with a slight twist on the leafy stuff. Plus a couple of handfuls of kale from my own north 40.

Terry B April 6, 2012 at 1:09 am

Hope you like it, Robert!

Patricia, actually any food you see prepared here is being eaten by Marion and me moments after the photo is taken. And however good it looks in the picture, if it doesn’t taste good or isn’t pleasant to eat, it doesn’t get posted. Kale is one of those versatile vegetables that can take being cooked until absolutely limp and tender, particularly in soups. But it’s also quite ready to eat after 12 to 15 minutes of braising/steaming, as I did here. More and more, chefs and home cooks are taking advantage of this crisp tender cooking of kale, chard, green beans, asparagus and a host of other vegetables. I would encourage you to give it a try.

Altadenahiker, I envy you with your California fresh greens and other produce pretty much year ’round!

David Tomicek April 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Great blog! :)

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