Here’s a recipe using another vegetable which is growing in my winter garden. “Smothered Kale and Andouille Sausage” is just good old-fashioned Southern cooking at its best. This recipe substitutes kale for other traditional Southern vegetables such as mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage and okra. I am successfully growing Dinosaur kale in my garden this winter. Hurray! This dark bumpy, somewhat sweet and mild variety of kale works well with the slow smothered cooking method. Andouille sausage adds a smoky, spicy twist to this dish. If you wish, serve vinegar on the side for a tangy ingredient to brighten the kale.
What is “smothered” cooking?
This style of cooking is associated with Cajun dishes, Soul food and Southern cooking in general. These dishes are tender and well-seasoned; they are true “southern comfort foods.” Both meat and vegetables lend themselves to being “smothered.” What is smothering? Basically it means to slowly cook some sort of well-seasoned meat (or vegetable) and a little liquid in a heavy pot with at tight-fitting lid. It is a slow method of cooking. Serve with rice and broth from the meat — thickened into a gravy; and cornbread.
To cook meats in this manner — typically chicken pieces or pork chops — coat the pieces of meat with well-seasoned flour and then brown them in oil or bacon fat in a heavy pot. Typically you will add seasonings; perhaps onions, bell pepper, garlic, celery. How much? You decide. (I add lots and lots of diced onion.) The seasonings which are added to the meat may be either sautéed first or added to the pot raw. Some sort of liquid — water or broth — is added. Put the lid on the pot — this is important — and let the food simmer away for an hour or so, stirring the pot from time to time. Perhaps, you’ll make a brown gravy with the drippings or a white gravy by adding milk. And that’s it! You have just made Southern smothered chicken or pork chops. It is an easy and almost fail-proof way to cook a dish. Most Cajun cooks that I know make this dish without a recipe. Just “go for it.”
Cooking “smothered” vegetables is similar. For vegetables, sauté onions and possibly other seasoning vegetables in oil along with smoked meat pieces. Add the vegetable — cabbage, mustard greens, turnip greens — and stir to wilt it. Mix in either broth or water. Cover the heavy pot, turn the burner on the stove to “low” and let the ingredients simmer a long time — 45 minutes or more. If this seems like a long time to cook vegetables; this is the way “smothering” is done. Don’t question the process. But do enjoy the results!
Dinosaur kale is also known as dino kale, Tuscan kale, lacinato kale and black kale. According to my recourses, this type of kale is often used in Italian cooking. Dinosaur kale does not have “curly” leaf edges but rather has raised bumps on its dark green leaves. Although this kale can grow to about three feet in height, my plants are about 18″ and really need to be picked as some of the leaves are starting to turn brown. It is a cool weather vegetable and easily grows in Louisiana gardens in the early spring.
Kale is one of those “power” vegetables and is full of nutritional benefits. The dark-green leaves of kale are a give away clue that this vegetable has lots of nutrients. It is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, bok choy and many other vegetables. Kale is low in calories and is nutrient-dense with appreciable amounts of vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese per each serving. Plus kale, like other cruciferous vegetables, is full of antioxidants with heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. You get a lot of nutritional “punch” with this vegetable.
About Andouille Sausage
Andouille sausage is found in Creole and Cajun cooking. It was brought to Louisiana by early French immigrants. It is a course grained, smoked pork sausage. The sausage is made from pork which is chopped into small pieces rather than ground and so it has a courser texture. The seasonings typically include garlic, paprika, onions, pepper and wine. The sausage may be mild or hot; depending upon the brand. Originally, pig intestines’ were used for the casings but now typically something like beef collagen is used. It is smoked and should be fully-cooked; but I would check the packaging before making assumptions. I prefer Zummo’s brand of andouille sausage. It has a nice, balanced flavor — not too hot. This sausage is produced in Beaumont, Texas (not too far from Cajun Louisiana). This product can be found in Walmart, H.E.B. and Kroger stores around the country.
If you don’t have andouille sausage, then smoked ham cubes or any spicy smoked, skinless sausage can be substituted. It will have a slightly different flavor but is just as tasty.
I am adapting my recipe for “Smothered Kale with Andouille Sausage” from a recipe found in John Folse’s epic book, “The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.” I was gifted this large book as a present and it really is a coffee-table type of book. It is fun to browse through it in the late evening hours. The encyclopedia is full of history, stories, beautiful photos and recipes of the Cajun and Creole people. John Folse is a noted Louisiana chef; well versed in Cajun and Creole cooking and he has packed an amazing amount of information into this volume. It is a good gift for the history buff who has every other cookbook.
Making the Recipe
Here are the ingredients for “Smothered Kale with Andouille Sausage.” It is another simple recipe. The kale and andouille sausage tell the story; you really don’t need other seasonings. John Folse used chicken broth as the liquid in his smothered cabbage dish; I like the flavor and added it to my dish. For seasoning, I used onion and garlic. If you wish, you can add in bell pepper and celery. Note that I skipped the salt and pepper. The chicken sodium-reduced chicken broth still has plenty of the sodium; the sausage contributes a enough of a spicy flavor.
To make this dish, sauté the onions and garlic in a little oil. Add the sausage and sear. I like to cut the center rib out of the kale; then cut it in pieces. Add to the pot along with chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Then lower the heat, put on the lid and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir the pot from time to time. Very easy. The kale “wilts” and cooks down. You may think you have a large pot of kale; but it quickly disappears.
Here’s my “Smothered Kale with Andouille Sausage.” This dish is healthy, tasty and easy to make. It is a winner. Enjoy!
Smothered Kale with Andouille Sausage
Ingredients for salad::
- 12 to 16 oz Dinosaur kale
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 12 oz package Andouille sausage, cut into cubes
- 1 cup chicken broth
- apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, if desired
Method and Steps:
- Sort, rinse and drain Dinosaur kale leaves. Remove thick center rib of each kale leaf, slicing leaves in half lengthwise. Stack leaves and cut into pieces. Set aside.
- In large heavy saucepot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent and tender.
- Add Andouille sausage cubes. Sear sausage cubes.
- Add kale pieces. Stir to mix in kale with onion and sausage.
- Add chicken broth and stir. Bring to boil.
- Then lower heat to simmer. Tightly cover pot with lid, and cook for 45 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally.
- Remove lid, cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes to cook down excess liquid.
- When serving, pass vinegar for individuals to add, if desired..
Here’s my Dinosaur kale crop in my garden from several years ago. This vegetable is so easy to grow in Louisiana gardens, I realize now that I need to be ready with more recipes to use it. Other than canned kale when served in school lunches, this is not a vegetable which I am accustomed to eating. But it is very healthy and that is important. Here’s to kale!