Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Braised Kale and Ham Bits with Grits

There is no such thing as too much leftover holiday ham, not when this dish is so delicious and so easy to prepare. You won't think of it as leftovers, I promise. It was Monday, the traditional day to cook up a pot of Red Beans and Rice, and I was tempted in that direction. But that big bag of kale in the fridge made the decision for me; forget the RB&R and work with the pork and kale instead. Savory, salty, tangy, richly flavored and vibrantly gorgeous to look at - what's not to like about Braised Kale and Ham over Grits?! It's even healthy with a ton of nutrients: vitamin B6, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, iron, magnesium, vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, protein, folate and niacin. See, healthy... healthy enough to balance the not-quite-so-healthy Cheese Grits that shared the plate.  

This dish might be reason enough to bake more ham than you need, just to have some leftover meat. Or you could buy some smoked pork or turkey parts, boil to remove some of the saltiness, and use the smoked meat instead. Substitute bacon or sausage? Of course you can, and it will still be delicious. 

One bunch of kale yields a mountain of raw greens when chopped, but cooks down into a fraction of that volume. Initially the ingredients look sufficient to feed a crowd, but will reduce to enough for 4 ample portions (unless you have are feeding some really big appetites). Serve the kale and ham over a mound of grits and it will feed 6 or more.   


two-count swirl of olive oil to coat pan
1 onion, chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
2 cups cooked ham bits (or smoked pork bits, smoked turkey bits, chorizo, bacon etc.)
big pinch of salt (optional) & freshly ground pepper 
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup tamed jalapeƱo rings (Mezzetta's)
1 large bunch curly kale, cleaned & chopped
splash of chicken broth (as needed, optional)

Cooked Cheese Grits and some hot sauce to accompany 

  1. Use a large heavy-bottomed skillet or dutch oven; lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped onion for 2 - 3 minutes to soften; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two until fragrant. 
  2. Add the cooked ham pieces, salt & pepper, vinegar and kale; stir to mix. Cover, lower the heat and cook until until the kale is tender, roughly 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a splash or two of low-sodium chicken broth if the pan grows too dry.
  3. Uncover and cook until the liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. Serve over cooked grits with your favorite hot sauce available on the side.

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