Kale and caramelized onion stuffing

My sister’s fiancé recently participated in a baking competition at the hedge fund he works for.

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If that sentence seems odd to you, let me add some context: they live in England, and in England these things are quite normal.

Anyway, she immediately started shopping around for a winning recipe and called in my mom and myself for support. We had lots of suggestions, many of which were deemed infeasible for a) a recipe that needed to be transported (so no mixed berry pavlova) and b) a cook still figuring out metric system units and a UK oven (so no reversed impossible chocolate flan cake).

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In order to win they were going to need a winning strategy, which turned out to be an apple cake with maple icing from Ottolenghi. Because Ottolenghi is the best, but also because, as my sister put it, “If it looks terrible we can cover it up with the icing.”

You’ll be pleased to hear that they did in fact win.

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The reason I’m sharing this is because I took a similar tact with my office’s Thanksgiving potluck – similar in that I knew I had to pick out a winning recipe from a proven source. The difference, of course, was that this was a potluck and potlucks are not competitions.

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So I had a lot of conversations that went like this:

“I really want to win my office’s Thanksgiving potluck.”
“Oh, it’s a competition?”
“No…”

What can I say? I’m a terrible competitive person.

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As it turns out, I did pick a winning recipe – this kale and caramelized onion stuffing from Smitten Kitchen – and I did win, by which I mean that someone else also brought in stuffing but mine got eaten in the first 20 minutes whereas his didn’t get finished. Hehe.

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So whether your Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving is a competitive affair or you’re just trying to up your stuffing game, I highly recommend that this dish have a place on the table.

If the kale is throwing you off – don’t let it. It takes a bath in garlicky olive oil and chicken stock and then crisps up in the oven. And the onions? They’re sweet but with a tang from the cider vinegar you add in the last few minutes of cooking. Then you tangle it all together with some sourdough bread cubes and let it bake into cozy cascade of flavors.

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One last plug? I know some people don’t like stuffing because it resembles bready mush; here, you toast the bread cubes lightly before assembling so while the center of casserole is soft, the top and edges retain a bit of crunch.

On second thought, I wish I hadn’t won the potluck. At least then I’d have leftovers…

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Kale and caramelized onion stuffing
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Notes: Deb uses sherry vinegar and sherry. I had neither, so I subbed apple cider vinegar and omitted the sherry entirely. You can really use whatever kind of vinegar is in your pantry, or you can leave it out.

I bought a 12 ounce bag of pre-torn kale from Trader Joe’s thinking I’d be a little short because the recipe calls for a pound. I don’t know if it’s because kale weighs more with the ribs still in, but 12 ounces of torn kale was a TON of kale. I cut down to easily half of what was in the bag. You’ll see that reflected in the range given below.

Last notes – you’re going to need your largest sauté pan to fit all the onions and later, all the kale. As far as caramelizing the onions goes, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: this process always takes me FOREVER. Like, over an hour forever. Deb’s strategy involves steaming them at a low temperature for 15 minutes. Personally I think this slows you down because nothing is happening for 15 minutes, but I’m keeping it in the instructions because I believe in Deb and I haven’t tried it the other way in a while.

Serves 8

1 1/4 pound (20 ounce) loaf of sourdough or other dense bread
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 medium yellow onions or 2 large, thinly sliced in half-moons
Salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
2 tablespoons apple cider or sherry vinegar
1/2 to 1 pound (large bundle) curly kale, center ribs and stems removed, torn into bite size pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups vegetable, chicken or turkey broth, divided
2 tablespoons sherry, optional

Heat oven to 400°F.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons oil in the bottom of a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil, cover the pan and let them cook undisturbed for 15 minutes at the lowest possible temperature.

Meanwhile, slice crusts off bread and tear loaf into rough pieces, about 1 inch. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil, tossing well to cover. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing once or twice for even color, until golden brown and crisp on the outside but still a little tender inside, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool on sheet, then tip back into that large bowl.

After onions have steamed for 15 minutes, remove lid, raise heat to medium/medium-high, add sugar and 1 teaspoon salt and cook onions, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 20 (to 30, to 40, to 60) minutes, until they’re a deep golden brown. Patience is key!

Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of pan, then cook off. Taste onions and add a second tablespoon of vinegar if you like, cooking off the same way. Add to bowl with croutons.

Then, add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to pan with minced garlic and heat garlic for half a minute. Add kale and stir to coat with the garlicky oil, then add 2 tablespoons broth. Cook kale until wilted and somewhat tender, seasoning well with salt and pepper, about 6 minutes. If using, add sherry to pan and cook until it almost disappears. Add remaining broth and last two tablespoons of butter and bring mixture to a simmer.

Pour kale-broth mixture over croutons and caramelized onions in bowl. Toss well to combine. Pour mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil, and bake for another 15 to 20, until golden and crisp on top.

Kale and caramelized onion stuffing: https://smittenkitchen.com/2015/11/kale-and-caramelized-onion-stuffing/

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