Tuesday, February 17, 2009

City Kitchen Chronicles: Not-Quite Colcannon

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

Every so often I look down at my items on the grocery store check-out conveyor belt, or unpacked onto my kitchen counter to be put away, and I think about starting a blog called Single Girl Grocery Shops. Most recently: one bag of green lentils, one sweet potato, a jar of Goya green olives, a can of vegetarian baked beans.

I’ll set your minds at ease right now by disclaiming that these were not fixins for a single meal. I’m not sure what exactly I went in for – I think to see if there were any good deals on vegetables – but apparently I’ve been in the mood for salt lately. (I also recently acquired a jar of Bac’n Bits. Yup, they’re vegetarian. And tasty.)

Although I was not making sweet potato/baked bean/green olive lentil stew (ew), the ingredients were bumping around in my head, and I got to thinking thinking of some marriage of the sweet tater and baked beans. I still had leftovers to get through, though (mostly some delicious but probably not-so-healthy, if I were to do the math, peanut butter sesame noodles), so I filed it away for later in the week.

In the meanwhile, I came across Mark Bittman’s recipe for Pan-Crisped Potatoes. This reminded me of my college roommate’s specialty, tiny cubes of sweet and white potatoes oven-roasted in tumeric and cumin. At some point, I brought home a surprisingly not-sad-looking bunch of kale from the supermarket, so there was that, too.

Sweet potatoes, kale, baked beans… how this got me thinking “colcannon” I can’t be quite sure. Colcannon is an Irish dish made of mashed potatoes, cabbage, butter, salt and pepper. (I thought bacon was a usual ingredient, but Wikipedia doesn’t mention it. Maybe it’s just an occasional bonus.)

I’ve seen colcannon recipes with kale in place of cabbage, and love combining sweet potatoes and kale, so I guess that’s how this idea got started. I’d steal Mark Bittman’s method, rather than mashing the sweet potatoes, and steal my old roommates propensity for tiny cubes of potato, roast the kale, and replace the bacony element with vegetarian baked beans. It’s miles from colcannon, bastardized and deconstructed, but dang is it good.

Although the tiny cubes of pan-crisped sweet potato are delicious, the roasted kale really stole the show. It’s sort of like kale chips, but miles less fussy. The chips require precision and care – can’t be too wet, can’t cook too long or too short or they’ll burn or be soggy – but when I roasted this kale I didn’t even have it evenly tossed in the olive oil, and it all came out heavenly. Some pieces crisp, some don’t lose all their moisture, but that’s okay! One of the easiest, most delicious things I’ve ever made.

I’m not including the baked beans in the recipe because it’s like: step 1, open beans; step 2, microwave. I do recommend doctoring the beans, though – I find them way too sweet on their own. Once they’re hot, I like to add a big spoonful of cottage cheese – it melts right in and you don’t taste it, just a little extra creaminess and a good added dose of protein. (This sounds like crazy food, but my friend J., who does not have total crazy lady tastes like I do, was a big fan.) A few shakes of chili powder in the beans are also a good idea. (Or, if you’re on a salt kick like a pregnant lady: Bac’n bits.)

From mashed potatoes with cabbage and bacon to tiny cubes of sweet potato over roasted kale with a side of baked beans and cottage cheese… I can’t quite call it colcannon. But “colcannon” is such a fun word to say.

Deconstructed Bastardized Colcannon
serves 2-3

1 bunch kale leaves, torn into pieces (about 5 cups torn)
1 large sweet potato, cut into ½” or so cubes
3 T olive oil (or a mix of olive and vegetable)
cooking spray
salt, to taste (sea salt or kosher, if you can – coarse is good)

[Note: I didn’t measure the olive oil in which I cooked the sweet potatoes. I poured enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet, but then I let the cooked taters drain on paper towel, and took off a good deal of oil that way. I’m going to guess at 3 tablespoons. I’m also of the school of thought (well backed-up by research, btw) that fat is not, in and of itself, bad for you, so don’t be alarmed by the high grammage of the recipe. You can reduce the oil, though, if you want. Your sweet potatoes may not be as browned or crispy, but they will still be quite good.]

1) Preheat oven to 375.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes with a nice sprinkling of salt and cook, tossing and stirring from time to time, until they are nicely browned and cooked through. Depending on the size of your cubes, this will take 7-15 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, place kale on rimmed cooking sheet (it doesn’t need to be a single layer – a pile is fine) and spray with cooking oil, tossing for even coverage. (You can also use a drizzle of olive oil, and you don’t even have to worry about even coverage.) Sprinkle with salt.

4) Roast kale in the oven for 5 minutes. Stir/toss, roast another 5 minutes, or until it’s as done as you like it. (A little browning on the edges is not a bad thing.)

5) Drain sweet potatoes on paper towels, sprinkle over kale.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
Two servings: 368.5 calories, 25g fat, $0.69
Three servings: 245.5 calories, 16.5 g fat, $0.46

5 cups kale: 168 calories, 2 g fat, $0.40
1 large sweet potato: 212 calories, 6 g fat, $0.50
3 Tbs olive oil: 358 calories, 40.5 g fat, $0.44
Cooking spray: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
Salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
TOTAL: 737 calories, 50 g fat, $1.38
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 368.5 calories, 25g fat, $0.69
(TOTAL/3): 245.5 calories, 16.5 g fat, $0.46


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