This post would be a lot better with a photo, but odds of that are low…maybe someday
This is a recipe I made up about a year ago, becoming relevant now as other than a slight sweet tooth* the one thing I’ve been craving this pregnancy is greens. So, this has been getting a lot of play.
Anyway, many greens recipes use bacon, but I find the smoked flavor awkward with vegetables, so this goes a bit of a different route with sausage instead. The name comes because superficially it resembles chinese food with a pile of grain covered in veggies and a little meat. The cooking technique is pretty similar to stir-fry as well, but the flavors are distinctly different. It isn’t authentic or anything like that, I just used polish since I’m using polish sausage.
It is really, really fast to make, with most of your time spent cleaning the kale and slicing the sausages. Once the pan starts going you do need to be there and watching it the whole time, but it cooks in well under 15 minutes.
Serves two as a (smallish) complete meal.
- 1 bunch greens (preferably Kale, see variations)
- 1/2 bottle of light colored beer. (like a pilsner)**
- 2 kielbasa or similar sausages (the small, bratwurst sized ones, not the big rings)
- grain of your choice. (barley or faro recommended)
- One large, flat pan. Do not use a non-stick pan. The pan will need to fit all the kale. If your frying pan isn’t big enough you can use a dutch oven or other large pot instead, but a large bottom helps the liquid cook off quickly. If you’re really tight on pans, you can add the kale in batches, as it does cook down some. A lid is helpful, but not 100% necessary.
- Depending on the cook time of your chosen grain, start that first. Follow the package directions. If doing barley or something else where the liquid absorbs use broth or add a teaspoon of bullion to the cooking liquid. (Also, toast the barley in the pan before adding liquid. That always makes it better. You just have to be careful to stir a lot so it doesn’t burn)
- Cut the thick midribs off the kale and tear the leaves into large-ish pieces. Wash and set aside.
- Chop the sausages into thin slices
- Heat a large flat pan to high / medium high. Unless you’re using some strange fat-free sausages, you won’t need extra oil, everything you need will be released from the sausage as it cooks.
- When water flicked on the pan sizzles, add the sausage and fry until browned – about five minutes. You want to stir them enough that they don’t burn, but if you stir them constantly they won’t develop the tasty crust. Don’t worry if you get a dark brown crust on the bottom of the pan. That will be taken care of in the next step.
- Turn the heat in the pan down to medium, and deglaze*** with some of the beer. You don’t want to add the entire half bottle at this point, just enough to get the stuff off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the washed kale to the pan. Stir around a bit to get the flavors from the sausage and the beer on the kale, then cover for a few minutes, or until you see the kale starting to turn bright green. If you don’t have a cover for your pan, you can compensate by stiring more and adding extra beer to keep things from drying out and sticking to the bottom.
- Take the lid off and stir some more, again trying to get the bottom stuff up top. Add more beer to taste and to increase the amount of steam cooking the kale on the top. When the kale is tender (another two or three minutes or so), turn off the heat
- If you have a lot of extra liquid in the bottom of the pan at this point, leave the heat on until it dissipates – don’t worry, kale is relatively hard to overcook. Also, keep in mind everything is still steaming hot, so a little extra liquid will cook off on its own while you’re serving, you just don’t want it swimming
- Serve in a bowl over the grain
Almost all the ingredients can be substituted depending on your mood, adventurousness, grocery availability, and how many times you want to trick your husband into eating this in a week. Some guidelines:
Kale is the most suitable green, as it doesn’t cook down too much, but isn’t bitter tasting. We’ve used turnip greens too, and while they don’t disappear quite as much as spinach, you still don’t end up with a heck of a lot of greens once they cook. If you use those, go for a whole bunch for person (I know, you will see the gigantic bunches your supermarket has and think I’m crazy, and that they must sell it in tiny single leaf packs where I live, but trust me) Cabbage has a different flavor so wouldn’t work well. Spinach and beet greens are just too wimpy for this dish, save then for something else. I haven’t tried chard or collards, but they might work too. Honestly, Broccoli Rabe might have potential too.
If your local store stocks fancy sausages, you can substitute those too. I would recommend you *start* with kielbasa or polish sausage or something similar to get the idea, but depending on your preferences, anything with a relatively assertive flavor should work. Also, I list one sausage per person because my husband is a meat fan, but you could really use one for both people instead. I find myself picking around the sausages a bit with this much meat. Don’t omit them entirely, or you’ll really mess up the flavors, though I see no reason why vegetarian sausage substitutes wouldn’t work.
Finally, grain. We normally make this with barley. Spelt or Faro would probably be even better, but the pack we bought came with little rocks in it and I never want to bother with picking them out first. You can also use noodles, though I would recommend whole wheat or something else a bit heartier than your basic spaghetti or egg noodles. If you don’t flavor the cooking broth (i.e. with noodles), add the cooked pasta to the pan with the finished kale and sausage and stir in a bit more beer to give it some more flavor.
*It’s not so much that I’m eating ice cream for dinner now as I really didn’t eat barely any sweet things before. I used to much prefer hummus, or cheese and crackers or plain yogurt or other savory snacks to vanilla yogurt or cookies or jam on apples with peanut butter, but I’m finding myself swinging more towards what I assume is normal for this country. I still think sweet potatoes and beets are disgustingly sugary, and jam is a terrible thing to do to toast.
**You’re going for the bite and acidity, so much as I like dark beers, they aren’t as suitable. Pilsner is our favorite, and we’ve used a particularly strong hefeweisen with good success. It would probably work well with a pale ale, but I’ll never know as I like to drink the second half of the bottle while I’m cooking, and neither I nor husband likes to drink IPAs. American beers are nasty, but if that’s all you have in the house, you must not mind drinking it, so maybe you won’t mind it here. If you are a beer snob like us, and bought a fancy beer in a large bottle that didn’t get finished the night before and is now flat, that will work too, though you miss out on the drinking while cooking. If you’re anti-alcohol, you can use some lemon juice or mild vinegar (rice vinegar?) as well, though be aware the extra acidity will turn the kale an olive green ‘overcooked’ color. If doing this, use plain water or stock or something to deglaze the pan, as the lemon juice is much stronger and you will want to use much less.
***If you don’t know what deglaze means, you can probably find videos and better descriptions online. The basic idea is you add a little liquid to the places in the pan that have stuff stuck to them, and rub with your spatula. The liquid will sizzle and boil rapidly, loosening the tasty stuff stuck to the pan, which dissolves into the liquid when you rub it. It’s great because it cleans your pan and makes a flavorful sauce at the same time. The pan has to be hot when you do this. If the liquid doesn’t sizzle when you pour it in, turn up the heat and try again. For the same reason, only add a few tablespoons worth (a small to medium slosh) at a time or you will cool down the pan too much.
****I make a lot of references to drinking the beer here, but I promise I’m not actually doing that while I’m pregnant. (trial though it is). I don’t think the quarter bottle of cooked beer than ends up in a serving is harmful.