Slow-Cooked Tuscan Kale with Pancetta, Breadcrumbs, and a Poached Egg

By • January 22, 2014 • 20 Comments



Author Notes: Before discovering Suzanne Goin's slow-cooked Tuscan kale, I thought I knew nearly every possible way to prepare dark leafy greens: sautéed quickly with garlic and red pepper flakes; raw, sliced thinly, and massaged with dressing; and boiled four ways à la Zuni Cafe. But Goin's recipe, which calls for blanching the kale first, then cooking it slowly with sautéed onions for 30 minutes, was unlike any method I had ever tried. The kale essentially cooks until it turns black and is crispy at the edges, and it has become one of my favorite things to eat.

The only trouble with the recipe is that it never makes enough -- I can eat a pound of this kale in one sitting. But when it's beefed up with toasted breadcrumbs and crispy pancetta, and when it's topped with a poached egg or served over creamy polenta, it starts becoming a meal. Slow-cooked kale is a nice addition to so many dishes from pastas to grain salads to pizza, but it seems to pair particularly well with eggs -- it is delicious tucked into an omelet with feta cheese.

Notes: This is my favorite way to prepare/use slow-cooked Tuscan kale, but know the recipe can be adapted to your liking. You can omit the pancetta and use an additional tablespoon of olive oil. You can use crushed red pepper flakes in place of the chile. You can top it with a fried or soft-boiled egg. I've learned not to skimp on the olive oil and to not rush the kale-cooking process — the key is to not stop cooking until the kale is black.
Alexandra Stafford

Food52 Review: WHO: Alexandracooks is a Virginia-based graphic designer.
WHAT: Super tasty slow-cooked kale that’s a perfect side dish for dinner -- or topped with poached eggs for breakfast.
HOW: Patience is key to slow-cooking the kale. Don’t be afraid of the dark, crispy edges that appear after a half hour or so -- they're what makes it so good.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We tried this without the pancetta and it was still indulgent and super tasty. We made it in the afternoon; the next morning, we re-heated it and topped it with a poached egg for a perfect, healthy breakfast.
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Serves 2

The Kale

  • 1 pound Tuscan kale, center ribs and stems removed (about 8oz | 250g once trimmed)
  • 2 to 3 ounces pancetta, diced into small cubes (note: use an additional tablespoon of olive oil if you omit the pancetta)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 chile de árbol (optional, a pinch of red pepper flakes works nicely, too)
  • 1 cup sliced yellow onions
  • 2 garlic cloved, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs (recipe follows)
  • 2 eggs
  • Vinegar
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Working in 2 batches, (or just 1 if you are using a large enough pot), blanch kale for 2 minutes. Drain, let cool, and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Coarsely chop; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, place the pancetta in a large sauté pan over low heat and cook covered for 15 minutes. Remove cover and cook for about five minutes more or until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan with the pancetta fat and place over medium heat. Add the rosemary sprig and chile (if using), and let sizzle, shaking pan every so often, for about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low; add onion. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue cooking, stirring every so often until onion is soft and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Discard rosemary and chile.
  4. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and kale; stir to coat. Season with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until kale turns almost black and is slightly crisp at edges, about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a small shallow saucepan to a simmer. Crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons vinegar into the pot of water. When the kale has cooked for about 25 minutes, adjust the heat of the pot of water so that the water is barely simmering -- get the water to a simmer, then turn it down so you don't see any bubbles or movement. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a whirlpool in the water, then drop one egg into the center of the whirlpool. Repeat with other egg. Adjust the heat to keep the water just below a simmer. Set the timer for 3 minutes.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, lift one egg up from the water and shake it. The yolk should jiggle a little bit, but shouldn't look too loose. You might have to cook the eggs for one minute longer. When the eggs look cooked to your liking, remove each one with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  7. When the kale has finished cooking, stir in the breadcrumbs and the reserved pancetta. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide the kale mixture between two bowls. Top with egg. Season with pinch of salt and pepper.

The Breadcrumbs

  • 2 cups bread cubes, torn from a fresh or day-old loaf of bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • pinches Kosher salt
  1. Place bread in a food processor and pulse until crumbs are coarse. Toast crumbs in about 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, tossing frequently, for about five minutes or until crumbs are crunchy and golden brown Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Season with pinch of kosher salt and let cool on a paper towel-lined plate.
Jump to Comments (20)

Tags: breadcrumbs, breakfast, kale, Pancetta, poached eggs

Comments (20) Questions (0)

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Stringio

5 months ago Kelly-Jo Medze

Made this last week, everyone loved it, thanks! having it again tonight...

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6 months ago divasparkle

Congratulations! Love the sound of this and I can't wait to try it!

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

Thanks, Divasparkle!

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6 months ago Silly Apron

Congratulations! Doesn't it feel great to have your food photographed by James Ransom? And of course to win the contest :)

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

Haha, thanks and yes! I mean, how is every picture he takes so gorgeous?

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6 months ago Teri

Congratulations Ali! You rock!

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

Thanks, Teri!

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6 months ago tina

I have a pound of curly kale, I wonder if it would be as tasty as the Tuscan?

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

So sorry to be seeing this just now! I have made this with curly kale, and it works, but to me it's not as good. Did you end up trying?

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6 months ago tina

Not yet but I will let you know when I do. We prefer curly in kale salad with lemon vinaigrette so I always have it on hand. I like Tuscan too though so I will report back soon!

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6 months ago tina

I did it with curly and it was delicious!

Linda_and_lisa

6 months ago Double Helping

Made this today. It's a beautiful dish. The flavors are great but I think it's a bit greasy for my taste. The 5 tablespoons of oil on top of the fat from the pancetta and the creaminess of the poached egg was a bit much for me. I think next time I would cut down on the added oil. It is a yummy dish though!

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

I could see that. If you try it again with less oil, I'll be curious to hear how it turns out. At one point I tried cutting back the oil but just felt something was lost in the finished dish. Know that it is delicious without the pancetta, too, and it's really nice over toast, too, which might cut the grease. Glad you liked it even so!

Exclaim100x100

6 months ago Blork

I made this tonight and it was excellent. I didn't have much kale, so I also sautéed some cremini mushrooms (after the pancetta, before the kale) and set it aside and added it back at the end. A nice addition!

This would go nice over creamy polenta, but I wasn't up to making that. But I did have some leftover mashed potatoes. So I warmed up a bit of half&half and infused it with a crushed garlic clove and a bay leaf. I stirred that into the potatoes (after discarding the garlic and bay) and warmed it up in the microwave. When it was hot I stirred in a pile of finely grated parmesan cheese.

It all worked together really nicely! A keeper for sure!

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

Wonderful to hear this! I love the idea of adding mushrooms, and yes re creamy polenta! Mashed potatoes sound yummy, too.

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6 months ago bexwithanx6

I just made this for dinner... it is unbelievably delicious! The fresh breadcrumbs make it even better

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

So happy to hear this. And I know, I love those crispy crumbs, too!

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6 months ago darksideofthespoon

This looks so good. Put a poached egg on anything and I'm on board.

Stringio

6 months ago Darryl Tan Shih Chiun

agree!

Astafford

6 months ago Alexandra Stafford

I know, it's almost cheating.