Food & Drink

The meal needs a kick. This is it

Slow-Cooked Tuscan Kale
Slow-Cooked Tuscan Kale For The Washington Post

No one will miss the glazed carrots or green bean casserole on Thanksgiving. The roast turkey and mashed potatoes are necessities, but there's nothing wrong with swapping out the Brussels sprouts one year, or sneaking a dash of cumin into the sweet potatoes. In a meal where nearly everything is predetermined, side dishes can provide cooks with a bit of freedom.

It helps that the menu already has such a solid foundation: the showmanship of a whole turkey, the richness of the mashed potatoes, the tartness of the cranberry sauce, the sweetness of the pies. What it lacks is a little kick.

That's where Los Angeles chef and restaurateur Suzanne Goin's slow-cooked kale comes in. It has everything an excellent Thanksgiving side dish needs: portability, simplicity and the unexpected heat of dried chiles de árbol, bold enough to pierce through the meal's butter and cream, yet not so strong that it is overpowering. The dish also caters to just about every dietary restriction out there.

The recipe shatters many of the cliches about cooking kale: It isn't massaged with olive oil or sautéed with bacon. It doesn't taste healthful, an important trait for those avoiding anything virtuous during the holidays.

Goin's recipe, originally published in "The A.O.C. Cookbook" and adapted over the years by the likes of Food52 and Bon Appétit, is cooked low and slow until the greens have turned the dark color cooks are usually taught to avoid. The rosemary offers a taste of the familiar, while the golden onions mellow out the spice.

The result is the sort of side dish that plays nicely with other holiday staples but can resurface again and again at dinner parties throughout the year. It might even win over the most devout of Thanksgiving-menu purists.

Just don't tell them it's vegan.

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Slow-Cooked Tuscan Kale

12 servings

Greens with a little zip provide a nice counterpoint to a table laden with traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

MAKE AHEAD: The finished dish can be refrigerated for 2 or 3 days in advance; reheat, covered, in a 300-degree oven.

Adapted from a Suzanne Goin recipe on Food52.com.

1 tablespoon plus 23/4 teaspoons salt

3 pounds Tuscan kale (cavolo nero; stems removed), rinsed well

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 or 3 dried arbol peppers, stemmed, seeded and each cut in half

2 1/4 cups sliced onions (from 2 large onions)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of the salt to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, blanch the kale in the rapidly boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Coarsely chop.

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the rosemary sprigs and dried arbol chilies (to taste). Let them sizzle in the oil for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions, 2 teaspoons of the salt and the black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, and stir in the sliced garlic. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the onions start to pick up color.

Add the kale, tossing to coat. Season with the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt; reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often, until the greens turn a dark, almost black, color and get slightly crispy on the edges.

Discard the rosemary sprigs and the arbol chilies before serving.

Nutrition | Per serving: 150 calories, 5 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 880 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

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