Healthy Weeknight Dinner – White Beans with Crispy Kale

White Beans with Kale, Onion and Bacon
Yet another beautifully simple dish inspired by Tyler Florence’s book, Start Fresh (I very loosely followed the recipe).  I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes cooking, but especially those who are cooking for babies or toddlers and desiring to show them a variety of foods at an early age.  I was talking to a friend just last night who said that because of the picky way she ate when she was little, she has such a hard time trying new foods as an adult.  Consequently, she is sure she hates cauliflower but is going to try it for the first time this week.  Hooray!  There are many ways to enjoy new vegetables and one of the best ways is by roasting them. So simple, so fresh and brings out a whole host of flavors you won’t get by steaming or boiling.

This recipe calls for kale, onion and bacon to roast together in the oven.  The kale gets super crispy and the bacon adds enough fat to take the dish to comfort-food level.  If I were feeding this to a baby, I’d simply take a bit of each component and blend it up with a little water or stock!  It’s totally easy to let the babies eat what you eat – just cook good food for YOU and blend it or mash it up for THEM!  This is the essence of Start Fresh and if you want an all-inclusive book for babies through toddler years and older, this is the book for you!

White Beans and Kale with Bacon

White Beans with Kale, Shallot and Bacon*
serves 4 to 6

1 large bunch of kale leaves, ribs removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small shallots, cut into strips
3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

On a baking sheet, arrange the kale, bacon, shallot and pine nuts and bake at 350F until the bacon is crisp, about 25 minutes.  Stir a few times as it bakes to ensure nothing burns and the bacon cooks evenly.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and crush the clove of garlic and add to the oil and when it begins to sizzle and turn brown, add the beans and stir to combine, add the stock and reduce the heat to low and let the beans simmer.  Salt and pepper the beans to taste and discard the garlic clove.  Serve the beans with the kale mixture on top and enjoy!

*inspired by a recipe from Start Fresh.  He made a risotto and I used beans 🙂  Work with what you have!
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Chicken Fricassee, Deconstructed

chicken fricassee 2

Chicken Fricassee was one of the first meat dishes I made for Olive when she was a baby, just starting out on solids.  (The first meat she had was homemade beef ragu – I kinda threw the rule books out when it came to feeding her and I haven’t regretted it a single day.)  I made the dish from that month’s Martha Stewart Magazine and took a little bit of each component and blended it up with a little extra chicken stock. Olive consume it with a great fury.  The flavors are so simple and so rich – it truly is a comfort food dish.  And if you think it’s “fancy” because it has a French name, fear not – it’s basically a chicken pot pie without the pie.  All those amazingly comforting flavors of chicken soup, thyme, carrots, peas, cream gravy, butter – they’re all there.  You serve it over rice or pasta and revel in the comfort.  It’s not difficult and it tastes like pure love.

I’ve made that Martha Stewart version several times, but for this recipe, I worked out of the Bonne Femme cookbook and decided to deconstruct it because Olive is able to eat each component just chopped up small, but not big enough to tackle chicken still on the bone.  So I cooked the chicken, shredded it after it had cooled, and then assembled, garnishing with the pan gravy at the very end for an easy to eat version that everyone really loved.

chicken fricassee

chicken fricassee 3

chicken fricassee 2

Deconstructed Chicken Fricassee*
serves 4

2.5-3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (legs, thighs, breasts, whatever – I used the whole chicken in pieces)
salt and pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 a white onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (or more chicken broth, if you don’t have any)
1 bay leaf
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 x 2″ sticks
1/2 cup frozen pearl onions
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs AP flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or stock pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain off all but a tbs of fat from the pan.

Add the onion to the pan and cook briefly, stirring, until fragrant.  Add the chicken broth and wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Then, scatter the carrots and pearl onions around the chicken; cover and simmer until the chicken is done (internal temp should register 170 on an instant read thermometer), about 15 minutes more.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; cover with foil to keep warm.  Discard the bay leaf.  Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup and set aside.  Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour with a wire whisk to make a smooth paste.  Cook and stir for one minute.  Slowly add the pan juices back to the pan, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth.  Cook the mixture until it boils and thickens, then continue to cook for one minute more.  Whisk in enough milk to make a sauce of the desired consistency and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the tarragon, parsley and lemon juice.

I then shredded up the chicken by hand, scattered an equal amount into each bowl over a heap of rice, arranged the vegetables on top of the chicken and then spooned my pan sauce over everything and cracked a lot of black pepper on top of that!  There’s something magical about fresh black pepper and a rich chicken dish.  It’s just perfect.

Enjoy!

*adapted from the Bonne Femme cookbook, which is perfect