Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Kale with Shallots and Bacon

It’s always a bit challenging to post something as potentially uninspiring as brussels sprouts and kale.  Chocolate lava cake, this is not.  But still.  I will do my best here to make the case that when done well, brussels sprouts and kale can be some very fine eats indeed.  And then there’s bacon, so there's a little wiggle room for inspiration.

And I get that there are lots of you who think you don't like brussels sprouts.  Or just really don't like cooking them.  And I get it.  They can be unappealingly aromatic, and if not cooked correctly, a bit bitter, and if overcooked, a bit mushy and almost inedible if undercooked.  But have you tried them shaved?  Awkward imagery aside, thinly sliced, they're transformed into almost a completely different veg altogether.  I can't explain it, but I'm here to sell you on this.

It's not a hard sell, but we're adding bacon, so perhaps I'm not actually being all that subtle. Chopped kale, shaved brussels sprouts, shallots and bacon turn out to make one heckuva great side dish; add some pasta and lots of grated parmesan and you've got a healthy and delicious one pan meal.  I haven't done that, but it's how my mind works.

This is actually a dish that I served at Thanksgiving and people seemed to like it (looking at you, Kristal).  I loved it and have made it a couple of times since then and have now deemed brussels sprouts and kale to be like a favorite veg combo.

Around the holidays in these parts, you can find brussels sprouts still on the stalk and they looked so cute, and the sprouts were small which I think taste best, so I picked one up, and from this time forward I will always do this.  These were the sweetest, freshest brussels sprouts in recent (and not so recent) memory.

When I was ready to cook them up, I just sliced them off the stalk.  I had seen shaved brussels sprouts in bags at Trader Joe's and other stores and actually bought them once, but honestly, they just weren't quite as fresh as buying them whole.  And if you have a food processor, you can create your own shaved sprouts in like 2 or 3 seconds.  No kidding.

So awesome.  A quick whiz with the slicing blade created perfectly shaved sprouts.  Then I just bagged them up and stuck them in the fridge until it was time to use them.  They will last like this for several days or even a week.  But go ahead and buy a bag of them already sliced (shaved) if you prefer.  They'll work just fine.

There are a few types of kale out there and this happens to be lacinato or dinosaur kale.  Sometimes it's called Tuscan kale.  But it's perfect in a recipe like this because it's a little more tender and cooks up quickly in a saute.  It's also great for salads, but you can use whatever kind you have on hand. The curly varieties sometimes need a little blanching first and I mentioned that in the recipe. 

You can also buy kale pre-chopped and bagged, but I never do.  They do a terrible job separating the leaves from the stalk, which is super tough and woody.  So I like to buy bunches of kale and simply cut the leaves away from the stalk.  It's quite cinchy.  

Now that your veggies are prepped and you've cooked your bacon, use some of that tasty bacon fat to saute your brussels sprouts.  I used turkey bacon which doesn't have much of a fat content, so I chopped the bacon and sauteed it in 3 tablespoons of olive oil which infused the oil with some smokey bacon flavor.  

Then add your chopped kale and saute until just wilting.  At this point you can add your bacon back in and stir in a little balsamic vinegar and serve it up, but I like to make things as complicated and time consuming as possible,

so I transferred it all to a baking dish and let it hang out in a low oven (250 degrees) for 15 or 20 minutes which gives everything a chance to get sort of chummy and spread the love a bit.

Not even kidding about how good this stuff is.  If I've done my job here, you'll be wanting this recipe...

Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Kale with Bacon

Click here for a printable recipe

Serves 6 or more as a side dish

1/2 lb bacon
2 lbs Brussels sprouts (sliced in food processor)
2 shallots, sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
8 cups of kale,(about 5 oz), chopped and blanched (*see note below)
1/4 cup of balsamic reduction or vinegar

Cook bacon in large skillet until almost crisp.  Remove it from the pan and leave about 2 tablespoons of the grease in the pan.   When the bacon is cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Add the shallots to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

Turn up the heat and throw in the brussels sprouts with a little more of the bacon fat, if needed.  Saute until they're just starting to soften.  Add the kale with any remaining water that clings to the leaves after blanching. Saute for 3-4 minutes until the kale softens.

Add the bacon back into the pan and stir to combine well.  Drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and taste for salt and pepper.  

At the this point you can go ahead and serve it, but I like to transfer it to a baking dish, cover, and place it in a low oven (about 250 degrees) for about 15-20 minutes to let the flavors mingle and the veggies soften just a bit more.

*To blanch the kale, just submerge it in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.