Winner of Your Best Dark, Leafy Greens

February 20, 2014

Congratulations to Alexandra Stafford, whose Slow Cooked Tuscan Kale with Pancetta, Breadcrumbs, and a Poached Egg won the contest for Your Best Dark, Leafy Greens!  

Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
I can't pinpoint an early experience that has influenced how I think about food, but I am often teased by family members about how I have always loved food. My mother still brings up how she begged my babysitter to stop feeding me donuts when I was two and how she found me at the raw bar eating Cherrystone clams and oysters at her brother's wedding when I was five. 

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I have always loved cooking, too, but I attribute my time at Fork restaurant in Philadelphia to changing the way I cook forever. Fork focused on using seasonal ingredients from local farms, and back in 2005, that was a novel concept (for me at least). The chef (Thien Ngo) made food I had never seen before -- romaine salads with sauce gribiche topped with ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, for example -- and he made it all seem so effortless. If we were out to eat, he criticized food that looked like "legos" in arrangement, favoring substance and flavor and more of a chaotic approach to plating. Every plate of food Thien created looked natural, beautiful, and delicious.

What is your idea of comfort food?
Greek food, or anything my mother makes. Whenever I go home, I can count on eating something like braised lamb shanks or moussaka or chicken kapama with egg noodles for dinner, and having homemade soup and spanakopita on hand for lunch. For breakfast, too, my mother always freezes loaves of homemade honey-whole wheat bread, which makes the best toast. Homemade bread is comfort food for me.

What's your least favorite kitchen task?
Unloading the dishwasher and putting away dishes. This is why I love my pegboard so much. 

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My bench scraper. I use it to clean scraps off my cutting board and to scoop vegetables into prep bowls. I use it to cut dough for cinnamon rolls and to portion dough for pizza. I use it almost as often as my chef's knife. 

What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
I still do not know how to make pancakes. Every time I am served a good one, I relish the moment because I cannot make them well at home. They are always either burnt on the edges or raw in the middle. 

Also, whole roasted duck. I made one for Christmas this year, and I took it out of the oven three hours before the recipe suggested because I thought it looked done. The legs were tough and the breast was pinkish but it tasted disgusting. I roasted another one a week later, cooking it for the suggested five hours. This time, the leg meat fell off the bone and tasted great but the breast was inedible, tasting dry and livery. I love duck legs, and I love duck breasts, but it's going to be a while before I roast them together again. 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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darcyeden February 24, 2014
Ali, you are adorable. Congrats - love the profile.
aargersi February 23, 2014
Congratulations on your win - great recipe! Love that you ate oysters and clams at 5. And fear not the duck! I use Merrill's technique and it works great:
Brette W. February 21, 2014
LOVED this dish so much. And love that we both worked at Fork!
Alexandra S. February 22, 2014
So happy! And I know, so fun to hear about Fork. Loved all of my time in Philly, but especially my time at Fork.
Midge February 21, 2014
Congrats Alexandra! You're not alone on the pancakes..
Alexandra S. February 22, 2014
So happy to hear I'm not the only one. I am going to practice tomorrow morning.
Christine February 21, 2014
For the best method for roasting a whole duck, check out the recipe for Crist Roast Duck with Port Wine Glaze in "The Best Recipe" by the editors of Cooks Illustrated. Their method is easy and foolproof. And delicious! I'm looking forward to trying your Kale recipe. Sounds fantastic.
Bevi February 21, 2014
Thanks for the tip!
Alexandra S. February 22, 2014
Thank you, Christine! I will try the Cooks Illustrated recipe. Port wine glaze sounds amazing.
savorthis February 20, 2014
Congrats- what a perfect lunch! I love the five year old eating raw oysters...I felt that same pride watching my daughter chew crunchy shrimp heads.
Alexandra S. February 22, 2014
That is impressive! I am waiting to feel the same pride in my children. At the moment, I beam when they eat broccoli.
bonheurcuisine February 20, 2014
Well deserved first place, congrats! Your recipe is delicious! I can relate to your idea of comfort food so much.
Alexandra S. February 20, 2014
Thanks so much! My mother's cooking is always comfort food, but this time of year, nothing is more comforting. I could eat bread all day long.
foxeslovelemons February 20, 2014
Congrats on your win! Very well deserved. Loved reading your Q&A.
Alexandra S. February 20, 2014
Thanks so much!
Bevi February 20, 2014
Nice to meet you through Q&A. And I can relate to the duck issue.
Alexandra S. February 20, 2014
Thanks, Bevi! What is it with whole roasted duck? Maybe by next Christmas I'll be ready to experiment again :)