Quick comfort: Meat and potatoes (and kale)

Nutrient-rich kale and turkey sausage give braised kale with potatoes and sausage a lighter, healthier touch without compromising 'comfort.'

Blue Kitchen
Braised kale with potatoes and turkey kielbasa sausage.

Looking back over recent posts, I noticed a distinct lack of meat-and-potatoes, stick-to-your-ribs food. In fact, the entire month of March had somehow been, if not meat-free, then certainly meat light. So a return of seasonably chilly, windy weather had me thinking meat-and-potatoes comfort food. Happily, a big bunch of kale in the fridge gave me an idea for taking it in a healthy direction too.

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. The winter vegetable is excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. Besides all that, it just tastes good. Milder than its relatives broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, kale adds a pleasant bitter bite to dishes that plays well with – and stands up to – other big flavors.

I already had sausage in mind for this dish, and the kale made me decide to lighten that up a little too. I chose turkey kielbasa, lower in fat and calorie count. Another advantage of sausage, turkey or otherwise, is that its big flavor means you don’t need a lot of it. I used 6 ounces for this dish that generously served two, with some leftovers.

And then there’s the potato. It gets a bad rap, due in large part to it frequently being deep fried or served with mountains of butter and sour cream. But on its own, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, the much maligned potato has a lot going for it. The site goes on to say that the potato’s phytochemicals levels rival those in broccoli.

And the results? Satisfyingly meaty and potato-y, with plenty of greens to make it a complete one-pot meal. Nothing complex or delicate here (unless you count the nice little something added by the tarragon, a last minute decision). And uncomplicatedly delicious.

Braised Kale with Potatoes and Sausage
Generously serves 2, with possible leftovers

1/2 pound kale
1 pound potatoes, about 3 medium, peeled and cubed
olive oil
6 ounces kielbasa or smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch coins
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup dry white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine or chicken broth of same amount]

Rinse kale under cold running water, shaking off excess liquid. Tear from thick stems and rip into largish pieces. Discard stems. You want about 8 cups packed of the torn kale (this will seem an alarmingly large amount, but it cooks down considerably). If you use pre-washed, pre-chopped kale, often sold in bags in the produce section, go by volume rather than weight. Set aside.

Place potato cubes in a microwaveable lidded container and microwave until just tender, about 2 to 4 minutes (or longer, if necessary – potatoes vary wildly in how long this takes). Set aside.

Heat a large, lidded nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté sausage coins until browned, turning frequently, about 5 or 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with slotted spoon. Add potatoes and onion to pan, drizzling in more oil, if needed. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, stirring frequently to keep onions from burning. Push vegetables to the side and add garlic and tarragon. Cook until fragrant, stirring, about 45 seconds.

Add broth and wine to skillet. Add kale in big handfuls, tossing to coat with liquid. Again, the amount of kale will seem alarming, but work it all in, cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. I have a glass-lidded skillet, and at first, the kale was pushing up against the lid. That’s OK. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The kale will reduce quite a bit in volume. Stir in the sausage, along with any accumulated juices, and cover the pan again. Cook until kale and potatoes are just tender, another 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You’ll note there isn’t a lot in the way of liquids left at this point; they will have mostly been absorbed by the potatoes and/or steamed off. But everything will be coated with a nice, light, flavorful glaze. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Braised Pork Chops, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Swiss Chard

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