Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dark Days Challenge Final Week: Kale and Chicken with Bacon and Currants over Rice

In thinking of a way to use up the bacon I bought last weekend, I thought back to the kale salad with bacon vinaigrette that I had at Diner not so long ago. I loved that salad, with its delicate chiffonades of kale and crunch of bacon and breadcrumbs.

But I didn't think that the tight little leaves of kale I get from Garden of Eve farm would suit a salad. So I decided to cook the kale on the stovetop and make use of the bacon fat. For Jesse's benefit, I added in chicken (big strong man needs protein) and served it over rice (a complete meal must include a starch).

I also added currants, which was a nice touch. I think currants may be my new favorite pantry item. I bought them on my last stock-up trip to Fairway because they were the cheapest dried fruit by far (about $2/box compared to $8/box for blueberries etc, thinking I would use them to make homemade granola. Well, I haven't gotten around to making granola yet, but the currants were perfect in with kale and bacon - providing a nice salty-sweet complexity to the dish.

And while I was initially opposed to adding carbs to my green leafy-heavy meal, I think the rice also really benefited the meal, since bites of sweet black rice tasted wonderful with crunchy bacon. (Thanks again to Jesse's mom for the colorful rice!) The chicken breast, a lucky find at the farmers market a few weeks ago, was not the star of the show, and I would only include it if you have a craving for meat, or, like me, have a big strong man around who requires meat. And as for the shallots, you could subsitite onions as I normally would have, but I was lucky enough to get free shallots at the farmers market for having exact change :-)

Kale and Chicken with Bacon and Currants over Rice
3/4 cup rice
1 1/2 cup water
4 strips bacon
2 shallots
1/2 lb chicken breast
1 large or 2 small bunches kale
heaping handful of dried currants

Combine rice, water, and a pinch of salt to a small pot. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 40 minutes until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, lay bacon in a large pan and cook over medium heat, turning every few minutes, until crispy. Remove and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Mince shallots and cook in bacon fat over low heat until softened. Meanwhile, slice chicken into fairly small pieces. Add to the pan and turn heat up to medium to allow the chicken to brown. Turn chicken pieces over after a few minutes to brown the other side.

Meanwhile, rinse kale and chop into very small pieces. Add to pan and lower heat to low. Let wilt a little. Then add 1/4 cup water and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Tear bacon into bits and scatter bacon and currants over pan. Add salt and pepper and combine. Serve kale mixture over rice.

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