On the vegetable quest last week, I had mixed results. I hit up this cookbook, a favorite of mine from probably a decade ago, which had never steered me wrong. But the slow-cooked swiss chard, apparently a riff on a technique of Deborah Madison, who also rarely steers anyone wrong, was just, well, wrong. There was the labor of chopping the stems up into tiny dice, which felt fussy for such a mediocre result. Everything had to be cooked longer than the recipe said, and I had to monitor it and add more liquid than the recipe said, and my final dish was still meh—basically an unexciting pile of overcooked chard. (And remember, this, from a champion of mushy vegetables!) The kale cooked with caramelized onions, on the other hand, was completely delicious—but I can’t really get excited about it, because the flavor of the kale got totally lost. It was yummy because caramelized onions are yummy. But if I’m going to go there, I might as well just caramelize a bunch of onions and eat them straight, or smeared on some fresh flatbread with a creamy goat cheese or something. Now you’re talkin.
There was a victory, however, and this came as a result of ignoring two dumb habits I had fallen into—saving beans for meatless nights, and often filing greens in my mind as a side dish. The fact is, beans play beautifully with meat! And working greens into your main course just opens up your options for an interesting vegetable side. Like some roasted carrots and/or parsnips and/or fennel, perhaps, or a beet salad.
The dish in question was a lot like this one, which I used as a rough guide, and it could not be more satisfying on a cool night (bonus points, it also couldn’t be quicker to make). I got a nice loaf of crusty bread and put out the good butter, because I didn’t want my kids’ total rejection of this stew, which I could smell coming a mile away (nothing ruins several foods that they eat like having the audacity to combine them in one dish) to annoy me and ruin my enjoyment of it. Everyone wins!