You may have noticed that I lurrve starchy, carby foods and I totally admit it. Sometimes I think I’m on the anti-Atkins diet and I’m willing to make that sacrifice 😉 I’m also a sucker for pretty colors so when I saw my first purple potato it was like someone had created my perfect food. And so, in a fit of gluttony, we planted not 1 but 2 purple potato bags in our tiny veggie garden this summer.
Ten potatoes Some of them grew to actual potato size while others sadly resembled fossilized grapes but all my taste buds know is that they’re creamy and starchy. So, to celebrate our little harvest, what better trifecta than salty dry-cured pancetta beautifully seasoned by our local butcher and versatile kale which gets both tender when braised and crispy when baked? You heard me, besides being a vitamin and mineral-packed superfood that doesn’t overwhelm the flavors of your other ingredients, kale is crunchy raw, tender without becoming slimy when boiled or braised and crrrrrispety when baked. Since you’re braising it in chicken broth in the oven, you get soft but by no means mushy leaves that have soaked up that savory broth on the bottom and crispy baked leaves on top. Texture and flavor, it’s a win-win.
Words to the wise:
1) What if I don’t have super fancy dry-cured pancetta? You can easily substitute diced bacon or regular salt-cured pancetta from the deli case. Or go without and go vegan with vegetable broth and toasted sesame oil to give you a little smoky flavor.
2) Won’t the broth make everything mushy? If you were to cook this on the stove, for sure, but the dry heat of the oven allows the potatoes and kale to simmer in the broth as the liquid evaporates leaving everything bathed in a delicious savory coating. Actually, the parts that are sticking up out of the broth with develop a nice, crispy crust contrasting with the tender submerged braised bits.
3) Is there an easy way to prepare kale? Who isn’t a fan of getting 1000% the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin K, 200% of vitamin C, 180% of vitamin A, 5g of fiber, and magnesium all in 1 measly green cup? The tough fibrous veins, not so much, so I just strip them out. You can just rip the leaf off the stem and then rip or chop the leaves into bite sized pieces. Voilà, 1 c of green leafy goodness in 2 minutes.
4) Why leave the skin on potatoes? Not only does it add texture but the skin crisps up more than just the starchy potato alone and fiber is a good thing, no? In fact, the skin (actually the pulp just beneath the skin which would be removed with peeling) is also [shudder.] good for you and contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, thiamine, and even iron among other things. But you don’t have to tarnish your street cred, just tell people you like how crispy it is 😉
1-2 oz pancetta, diced **if cooking vegetarian/vegan substitute 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 tsp toasted sesame oil + 1/2 tsp salt
1 c low-salt chicken broth **if cooking vegetarian/vegan substitute vegetable broth like Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base (my favorite vegetable base cuz it’s very flavorful unlike many veggie stocks)
1/4 tbsp fresh (1/4 tsp dried) thyme
1 lb potatoes, skin on and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
12 stalks kale, large veins removed and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large skillet over medium heat brown pancetta till fat is rendered ~2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in broth, salt, pepper, and thyme. If you’re using an oven-safe skillet, like cast iron, mix in potatoes and kale otherwise transfer contents of skillet to a 9 x 9 inch baking pan and mix in potatoes and kale. Bake for 40-55 minutes till potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Serves 2 as a side dish or double the recipe and you’ve got 2 entrée portions 🙂