Kale is one of those “new” foods for me, which seems strange because I am a huge fan of bitter greens. Most likely I never noticed kale when it was served to me, it’s not usually something one raves about (until right now, that is). I probably just happily ate it, noting the biting, sharp taste for a while, and then forgot about it by dessert.
Now that I cook, however, I pay a lot more attention to my food. A lot. For instance, I now know that kale has more nutritional value per calorie than almost any other food, which is probably why it was a staple crop for Ancient Romans, who welcomed it into cultivation after it was brought to Europe by Celtic wanderers around 600 BC. Mustard greens, like kale, were especially good as a sturdy, tasty green for soldiers as the winter months wore on, as kale sweetens with the frost.
The kale I (read: North American) am accustomed too is the curly leaf variety. It’s big and beautiful, with ruffled leaves dancing around a pale green, strong stalk. Curly leaf kale, along with it’s brother variations such as cavolo nero (black cabbage), are part of the larger cabbage family called Brassica. Here we have all sorts of cabbages, mustard greens, roots (turnips, radishes), and flowers (broccoli, cauliflower). It’s also the father to mustard seeds.
Knowing that, I knew I had to pair mustard and kale. And with the first snow of the season this week, all I can think about is stew.
If you think the flavors of kale and mustard are both too independently strong to cook together, think again. The similarities in their sweet-bitter tastes play upon one another, and they are tempered by the vermouth that is added as a portion of the broth. And the pork, cooked to melt in your mouth tender, soaks up all of these great characteristics without smudging them all up. If you pop a piece of the meat in your mouth, you’ll be able to pick up each flavor—the kale, the dijon, the vermouth—tasting them independently as well as understanding why they meld together so well. And the sharpness of both kale and mustard cut through the oompha of this stew—it tastes healthy and hardy.
Dijon Pork & Kale Stew
- 2 large leeks, sliced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 lb pork tenderloin or similar cut (could do boston butt), trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1″ cubes
- 1½ oz. all-purpose flour (a small handful)
- 3/4 cup vermouth
- 3 cups chicken broth, with 1 tsp flour whisked into it *
- 1 cup water
- 3 T dijon mustard (try the country mustard with seeds if you want)
- 1/2+ tsp salt
- 1/2+ tsp fresh black pepper
- 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 8 cups curly leaf kale
Heat 1 T oil in a dutch oven over med-high heat. Add leeks and saute for 6 minutes, or until browned. Add garlic and saute another 1 minute. Transfer leek mixture to a large bowl.
Dredge pork cubes in flour, coating all sides. Shake off excess and add pork to the hot dutch oven (do this in two parts if you must.) Brown pork on all sides. Transfer to bowl with leek mixture.
Add vermouth to dutch oven, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil. Add broth, water, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Add pork and leek mixture, bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the potato. Cover and cook until tender, about another 30 minutes.
Uncover, add kale and cook until wilted, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some toasted, buttered baguette.
* Even though the stew is made with pork, use chicken broth in order to achieve the lightness that is needed to not cloud the sharp mustard flavors. But then again, I’m sure a homemade ham-hock stock would work just fine.
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***And of course let me know if you like anything or if you don’t!!