Today: Creamed greens were always comfort food, but now they don't need the steak on the side.
Creamed spinach -- let's own it -- is just an excuse to eat swirls of cream.
The greens are almost an afterthought to get it to sit up on the plate, a thickening agent. You could be eating creamed mesclun -- would you know the difference?
And there's nothing wrong with that. Some go to the steakhouse for the sides alone. But there's so much potential to tease out from the presence of a good green, and add even more dignity to cream's noble head start.
Enter: kale. Specifically, lacinato. Unlike spinach, it doesn't lose its structure, and shrink into pudding.
You've met kale, right? It's that thing you ate for lunch the past three days. But while we usually pigeonhole it into salads and smoothies, this is kale for the holidays. (Thanks for letting us borrow your kale for a minute, juice cleansers, we'll try not to get too much cream on it.)
The recipe comes from Portland chef Trent Pierce, and its name alone shows off three major attractions: miso, cream, kale.
Any one of these is more than reason enough to pay attention -- but they just keep coming after that. Food52er deensiebat said it best: "I realize that it's not hard to love a dish with cream, booze, miso, and soy-cooked mushrooms. But still: Best. Kale. Ever."
Making it is as simple as any other sautéed green, despite its fanciness and glowing reputation.
Here's what you do:
De-rib and trim down to size an enormous bunch of kale, or two smaller ones. (Here's how.)
Sauté shallots and garlic, then heap and heap in your kale. This is not a stir-fry, it's an exercise in pile management.
Meanwhile, there is a butter-mushroom-soy experience that will go down in a separate pan. This will be your dressy topping, and will test the limits of how much umami you can use to gird a single dish.
Finally, pour in some dry vermouth, scrape around and watch it steam away.
And work in your cream and miso.
Where cream alone could blur, vermouth and miso lay their anchors; where butter gets rich, soy battens down. It's a little too much, and just right at the same time. Just like the holidays.
It would pretty great for any winter dinner party, or a night alone with a glass or two of sturdy red wine.
Adapted slightly from Oregon Live (January, 2012)
Serves 4, as a side
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch lacinato kale, or 2 smaller ones, stems removed, roughly chopped
1/2 cup shimeji mushrooms with stems, or shiitake mushroom tops
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white (shiro) miso, or more to taste
Photos by James Ransom, Trent Pierce photo by EaterPDX