Happy New Year! I know, a perfectly belated time of year to share the recipe that I’ve affectionately named Christmas Kale, but as I considered renaming, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And then I thought, much like the days where I “accidentally” add the Carpenters Christmas Album to my playlist shuffle, this might be just the dish to add a bit of Christmas to meals throughout the year.
Chestnuts are such a seasonal ingredient, they are of course optional. You also can find them in many grocery stores cooked and peeled throughout the year in the bakery or canned section. In the fall you can find them fresh and in the shell, and roasting them yourself is an easier adventure than you might expect. Some heat, patience and a sprinkle of salt is pretty much all you need to enjoy one of fall’s most delicious, satisfying, and hand warming treats.
So why Christmas Kale? Because, and it’s really as simple as this…why not? In fact, the entire dish could be a reincarnation of your favorite Christmas song, only you can eat it. Bacon adds a smoky depth so maybe think of this as the candle studded wine bar with a baby grand tucked in a corner. The onion and garlic play their part as a stand up bass. They are a whisper in comparison to the bold sweetness of the dates and chestnuts. but are actually an invaluable savory anchor, grounding the entire dish. The coconut? Well, let’s just think of this as the melody and texture…here is a music equivalent of it’s perfection.
1/2 c. thick cut bacon (diced)
1 medium red onion (sliced or diced)
3 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
1 c. chestnuts (roasted, peeled and rough chopped)
1 c. dates (seeded and rough chopped)
1 can coconut milk or cream (unsweetened)
8 c. kale (washed and roughly cut into bite size pieces)
salt (to taste)
red pepper flakes (optional/to taste)
1.) In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, cook bacon over low heat until caramelized and the fat has rendered. I love using a thick cut applewood smoked bacon.
2.) Increase heat to medium. Add red onion and cook until onions wilt and start to caramelize.
3.) Add garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring constantly and making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
4.) Add the chestnuts and dates. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
5.) Deglaze the pan by pouring in the coconut milk (or cream) and scraping (releasing) all the caramelized bits of bacon, onion and garlic goodness off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. This ensures that all of this flavor makes it into the final dish and doesn’t get left behind for whoever is on dish duty.
6.) Bring coconut milk to a simmer. This is a great time to taste the sauce and season with salt and red pepper.
7.) Add the kale. Stir. Cover pot and cook until kale wilts and is tender (about five minutes).
8.) Give it a taste to check salt and pepper seasoning. Make any additions if needed. Enjoy!
Component in Action
- replace kale with any other green veggie you want! (brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, etc.)
- use as a saucy side dish with spicy sausage or chicken or even pork chops
- serve over a bed of quinoia or brown rice
- leave out the bacon to make vegetarian and vegan friendly