Monday, June 6, 2011

Kale & Napa Cabbage with Smoked Chicken (& bbq sauce)

& I'm back...again. I can't promise I will not abandon this blog again. It seems to be a trend, but I like to look back on it as a personal record of our food habits & experiments.

I'm on summer vacation after completing my first three months of employment as a high school English teacher. It was an intense undertaking, but through it, I felt a self-actualization & fulfillment that I haven't felt in any other job or would imagine finding in any other job. I can honestly say that it is my calling.

Am I good at it? Not yet, but I want so badly to be good at it & I've proven that I have the work ethic, so I think it's a good fit. One day I will be a good teacher.

But school's out, y'all, & for some unknown reason, I was not rehired. So, I've done nothing school related for the last few weeks. It feels strange to get back into the routine I used to know so well.

When I began teaching, Mark took over all the domestic duties. I really would not have made it without him. He got up at 6:30 every morning (even though he doesn't have to be at work until around 9) & made me oatmeal. Not just any oatmeal, this oatmeal. He packed me salads every day for lunch & made us crock pot meals for dinner. Sure, we ate a lot of take-out here and there, but we were supporting local business, hehe.

Anyway, now I'm back to the meal planning & dish washing & it's a strange feeling indeed. Sometimes, maybe, I think I'm called to do this work. Then I look at my baseboards & know I wasn't meant to be a housewife.

Enough of the commentary, on to the food.

This is something I envisioned based on what I order at Calypso Cafe, another local place we've hit up quite frequently for take out in the last couple of months. I always get their chicken (either in sandwich form or as "skinless half white with 2 sides") with their delicious bbq sauce. My two sides are always the callaloo (greens stewed with tomatoes) and the bean & corn salad. When I get it, I inevitably end up mixing my greens with the bbq sauce.

So, when my favorite co-op emailed saying that they had my favorite type of kale (lacinato, otherwise known as dinosaur), I thought of an idea to put it to good use. I'd try to recreate that light, sweet bbq sauce & cook the greens in that.

But no, I couldn't recreate the sauce to my liking. However, there was an easy solution at hand: I'd purchase the sauce in pints from Calypso. It was really worth it & it was as cheap as making it at home. $4 for a pint is not bad at all. I'm going to continue my experiments to reproduce it at home, but until I find a recipe I'm satisfied with, I'll stick to buying theirs.

So here is how I made this dish:

I heated some oil in a pan, added a diced yellow onion.
I let it brown. I added some garlic & cooked it for a minute. Then I added 2 cups of our homemade chicken stock & the chopped kale & chopped napa cabbage. I put a lid on it & let it cook down.

In a separate skillet, I cooked 3 pieces of thick, hardwood smoked bacon from Trader Joe's (The bacon was good in the greens, but I won't find myself buying this stuff again. I prefer the leaner, center cut stuff for all other applications). When the bacon was done, I transferred it to a paper towel-lined plate. I poured the remaining bacon grease in with the greens, of course. After the bacon was cool enough to handle, I chopped it into small pieces and added that to the pot o' greens. I let the greens cook for about an hour or so on low heat, checking to make sure they had enough liquid. If not, I added more chicken broth. I also added a couple of glugs of Valentina's, one of our favorite hot sauces. I didn't add too much more beyond salt and pepper, if my memory serves me correctly.

Meanwhile, Mark coated the chicken with salt, pepper, and olive oil & put it on the grill. He's fashioned a DIY smoker out of a disposable cake pan & lid. Basically, you just fill the pan with whatever type of wood chips you like & poke holes in the top. Then you just place it on the grill.

The faux smoker yields excellent results. It ups the flavor of everything we cook on the grill, even hot dogs. & Mark comes in smelling all smokey & delicious, which makes me want to be near him all that much more.

When both the chicken & the greens were cooked to my liking, I scooped out some of the greens in a bowl, layered the chicken on top, and drizzled on some of the bbq sauce.

I'd decided not to cook the greens in the sauce as they seemed to be flavorful enough on their own & I dropped one of my purchased pints of sauce. Oh, the dangers of playing refrigerator Tetris.

This meal was very nice & echoed the Calypso experience fairly well.

I love a big pot of greens!

Tonight we're using the leftover bbq sauce on some tortilla pizzas. Info on that later.