Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beer-braised sausage and kale

This is an odd take on gruenkohl und pinkel that I made even odder by making a few poor choices interpreting ambiguities in the recipe. I do think it has promise though, so I'm going to post about it anyway.

To back up a step, what's gruenkohl and pinkel? Well, it's beer-braised sausage and kale--Didn't you read the subject line?--and the name is pretty much the recipe, although I understand you can optionally add a slice of ham. It's a northern Germany thing and sounds appealing enough that I would have made it just like that if I didn't have a blog to fill up.

The unusual version I attempted comes from Dave Copeland,'s food writer, who has added some possibly ill-advised Italian elements which I've de-emphasized in my version.

1/2 pound raw sausage, German or Polish would be best, but use your judgment, casing removed
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound kale, washed, de-ribbed and torn or cut into largish pieces
12 ounces dark beer
1 pound dried pasta [I used fresh which maybe could have worked if it wasn't my falling-apart spinach pasta], something thick and chewy would probably be best.
1 Tablespoon mustard [I used prepared mustard, but I see now that the recipe just says "mustard". A full Tablespoon of dried mustard is a whole lot, isn't it? I think he means prepared mustard. But not the strong yellow sort I used. Something more mellow would be best.]
salt and pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan [The combination of Parmesan and dark beer does sort of work but I'm not at all convinced it's the best choice for the job. Most beer/cheese recipes that I've found use cheddar, but not many use dark beer. Still probably a better bet than Parmesan. I could see blue cheese and dark beer, too, maybe.]

1. Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat and brown sausage, breaking it up. Remove to a bowl.

2. Add onions to pot and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook briefly until aromatic, then add kale. Toss kale to get it all somewhat wilted. When there's enough room in the pot, return the sausage and add the beer. Bring to a boil, turn heat to medium low, cover and cook until kale is tender, 15-20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook your pasta to al dente.

4. When kale is cooked, stir in salt, pepper and mustard. Add the cheese. When the cheese has melted into the beer, add the pasta and simmer until finished cooking, 1-2 minutes.

Served garnished with a little more cheese and maybe some more mustard too.

The batch I made ended up a weird mishmash of flavors that didn't really work too well. I think you can pretty much tell that just by looking at it. The Parmesan and the mustard particularly don't mesh and the mushy fresh pasta was a huge mistake. But, like I said, I think there's some promise here. I did like the sauce the beer and cheese formed and it did compliment the kale nicely. The kale itself was cooked well and I could see the textures working with a different sort of pasta. So avoid my mistakes and you'll probably enjoy it. Or just add kale to a standard beer cheese soup instead; That might be nice.

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