Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's All One Thing (a.k.a. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday Kale)

It's all one thing. Which is why I love cooking. It's all one thing. Which is the ultimate comfort in a life fraught with uncertainly and questions. Which is why I don't fear dying. Which is what I'd put on my headstone if I thought being buried in the ground mattered: "It's all one thing." Which is why I love batters.  --Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman wrote a book called Ratio, in which he devotes a chapter to the craft of batter making. The author is a writer turned chef turned chef-writer (Dear Mr. Ruhlman, you have my future career. Please return within 3-5 years time, or as long as it takes to complete a degree in nutritional sciences. Thanks, Arv.) In it, Ruhlman refers to something he calls the "crepe-cake continuum"  -- the idea that the only thing distinguishing a crepe from a popover from a pancake from a fritter from a muffin from a cake is the proportion of flour to liquid in the batter (and of course the cooking method). It's really quite eloquent both in concept and in Ruhlman's prose-y explanation, quoted above.

Anywho, I reaped the nutritional rock-star benefits of kale all week, paired with some eggs and, finding some Michael Ruhlman inspiration, folded into a crepe with a diced onion (the mysteries of onion dicing revealed). Here's how:

For all three dishes, I washed and chopped up about two cups of kale leaves, put them in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of water, and microwaved them for about two minutes to soften the tough leaves while keeping the nutrients in tact.

For the crepe dish, I first made a crepe batter by combining 2 ounces flour, 2 eggs, 4 ounces chicken stock and some salt in a bowl (a BIG bowl) and beating it with a whisk until it goes from this: 
 to this:

Then I put it in the fridge while I prepared the other parts of the dish, because Ruhlman says letting the batter rest for 30 minutes or more will allow the flour to hydrate and absorb the liquid.

Next I made an onion relish from a classic Julia Child recipe by dicing an onion and putting it in a medium heat pan with a tablespoon of butter. The onions went from this:

to this:

At which point I added a tablespoon of cider vinegar (you can also use white wine, which you have to let reduce in the pan). After the cider vinegar, I added some vegetable stock, and it went from looking like this:

to this:

Finally, I pushed the onions to the side and added my zapped kale to the pan, letting it wilt just a touch before mixing it all into the onions and sauteing the lot of it. The pan will get dry, so you'll probably have to add more stock for moisture and salt for flavor. I also had some leftover roast garlic which was an *awesome* touch to throw in at the last minute (and great for your heart, by the way!).

When it all tasted good, I set it aside and made my crepe by bringing a cast iron pan up to medium, dragging an oil-smeared paper towel across its surface, and pouring a DVD-sized disc of batter into the center of the pan, which I dispersed across the surface of the pan using the back of a ladle. I let it cook untouched for about 40 secs on one side, and then turned and cooked for a few seconds more on the other.

I sprinkled a couple grates of a smoky cheese (don't ask me to remember what kind...something Dutch) onto the hot crepe, which added a great flavor, and then spooned the kale mixture into it. Wrapped it all up and enjoyed every last bite of caramelized onion-y goodness.
The crepe was admittedly a little too thick, as you might observe in the pic, but not terrible for a first-timer.

For the kale & egg recipes, bring a nonstick pan to medium heat, add some olive oil, and toss in the leaves. After they begin to wilt, add salt, pepper, vegetable stock, about 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard (yup, the kind from a jar) juice from 1/2 an orange, a dash of white wine vinegar, and a teaspoon of two of your favorite hot sauce (taste and decide whether more is needed).
In a separate bowl (a BIG one) I beat four egg whites with similar ingredients: milk, salt, mustard, OJ, and hot sauce. I mean, I beat the **** out of the eggs until they were nice and frothy and my shoulder was dislocated. For the omelet, I used less milk, no more than 3 tablespoons, and added it to the pan once the kale was really nice and cooked down. Taste your kale to know when to add the egg. It should taste cooked through -- the rawness/toughness should be gone.  

Pour the egg into the pan and let it set, cooking untouched for about four minutes. You might need to add a bit more fat (a touch of butter or oil) at this point to prevent sticking. Once the omelet is completely set (you should be able to lift an edge up cleanly with a spatula) fold it over onto itself and let the middle finish cooking. It should start to brown on the underside. Then flip and let the opposite half brown, too.  
If you want to make a scramble, add more milk, about a half cup, to your egg mixture along with all the other ingredients. Pour into the pan and mix it all up this time instead of letting it set. Add a hint of butter and cook until the eggs have a crumbly, almost feta-like consistency.
 Tangy, sweet and spicy -- all my favorite flavors in a suspended in egg. What's not to love?

Ingredients for a delightful kale-egg scramble

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