1 cup each of at least three kinds of dried beans (for variety of texture and colour), soaked and blanched in separate pots
1 bunch of any braising green (any varietal of kale, Swiss chard, spinach, or beet greens or blanched collards)
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced or rasped
4 tablespoons salted butter
4 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup any stock or water
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley (other herbs are welcome but can overpower, so go easy on them)
1/2 cup Brown Butter Vinaigrette
Brown butter vinaigrette
1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 cups salted butter
1 teaspoon mustard (Dijon or any, excluding ballpark yellow, please)
1 tablespoon honey (raw is best, unpasteurized is next best; liquid, creamed, or crystallized all work)
1/2 cup cider vinegar, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
You’ll need to break down the greens for this dish before cooking them, as no matter what type you choose, they should be chopped into pieces roughly the same size as the beans. Don’t just chop the whole lot, though:
Chard and beet greens should first have the leaves cut from the stems and then the stems diced. (You’ll put the stems in the cooking liquid first; when it returns to a full boil, you’ll then add the leaves. Chard and beet greens and stems only need to be blanched for two to three minutes. Follow the cooking instructions provided.)
For kale, remove the leaves from the stems, and discard the stems. (You’ll blanch the kale for a solid five minutes, maybe a bit more depending on the weight and thickness of the leaves.)
If you chose collards, you’ll need to discard the tough stems and ribs, and—before you even begin the recipe—blanch the greens in salted boiling water for eight, maybe even 10, minutes or so, as they contain a lot of oxalic acid, which is toxic in large doses. (Not that you’ll suffer from a handful of greens, but put it this way: I don’t recommend you eat them raw. If you do, I wonder, have you noticed any kidney problems?) Drain the cooked greens well before using them.
Spinach is usually ready to go, maybe you just need to trim the stem bottoms or tear the stem off, depending on the varietal. Knock yourself out if you want to chop the spinach leaves, too, but I love how those tender little leaves just give themselves over, collapsing into green puddles of Popeye love without needing anything but a rinse and a hot pan to coax an immediate surrender.
Once you’ve prepped your greens, set them aside.
In a large skillet, frying pan, or shallow pot over low to medium heat, begin to sweat the shallots and garlic in the butter. I define “sweating” as the slow and long cooking of vegetables and other aromatics so that the complex carbohydrates in them are converted to simpler sugars without ever taking on any colour—no golden-brown stuff, no sticking to the bottom of the pan, no deglazing; just swirl the pan gently every few minutes. Once the shallots and garlic have virtually dissolved into a milky mash, you’re done. They should be fairly clear and sweet (not brown and bitter).
Now that you have a beautiful base, increase the heat to medium high, maybe a titch higher, then add the stems of the greens, if using. Sauté them for a few moments.
Sautéing, the frantic high-heat cousin of sweating, involves forearm muscles constantly tossing the ingredients in the pan so they never sit in one place and cook unevenly.
This allows the various flying bits to be bathed in screaming-hot and flavour-infested fat. (Oh, in case it helps, sauter is the French verb meaning “to jump,” so, yeah, that explains that.)
The next step: Deglaze the pan with the white wine (or some of the stock or water). Deglazing is all about using the heat of the pan to quickly boil the liquid you’re adding, which, in turn, releases all the lovely bits of delicious, umami-pumped fun-grunge from the bottom of the pan and integrates them back into the whole.
Add the prepped leaves, blanched beans, and enough of the stock or water to just come to the tops of the beans. You can add as much liquid as the beans will absorb, but remember that they were already fully cooked before you added them to the hot pan. You’re simply confirming texture, not pushing to cook further. Therefore, being careful not to turn the beans into mush, we’re just adding enough liquid to blanch the entire pan’s worth of greens. You’ll then let it reduce to a glaze but, damn, please don’t let the pan dry out. Once everything is in the pan, this whole process won’t take longer than two or three minutes (five minutes max, or it all turns to grey mush).
Stir in the parsley and dress the entire mass with the brown butter vinaigrette to finish the seasoning, add the nutty facet, and give the whole thing a lovely shine.
Brown butter vinaigrette
Place your diced shallots in a medium bowl and set it aside, at the ready.
Carefully brown the butter. As soon as the butter fully browns, remove the pot from the heat and strain the brown butter through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of shallots. The hot butter will lightly cook the shallots, and the shallots will in turn infuse the brown butter with more flavour.
Be careful: The brown butter is several hundred degrees hot, and once it hits the cold onions it will foam up. If you dump the butter in too quickly, it will foam up and over the top of the bowl. Set the bowl aside to cool for a little while (5 minutes or so).
Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, whisk in the mustard, honey, and vinegar and season with salt to taste. Whisk briefly, just until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. It won’t be emulsified and it won’t be homogenous—it will just be all mixed together, and that’s allyou need. It is certainly possible that you may need to adjust the acid (vinegar) and the salt to find the best balance for you, so give it a taste, judge for yourself, and do what you need to do. Just be sure to stir orshake it before you dress something with it.
Store this vinaigrette in the fridge, but take note that the butter will solidify when cold. Just warm it gently or bring it to room temperature before using. And stir or firmly shake it.
I can honestly say that this vinaigrette works in place of any other dressing. Okay, one caveat: If you’re jonesing for a Caesar salad and this comes along in place of that umami garlic festival, you’ll be disappointed.
But otherwise, it’s truly versatile. And I specifically built the St. Lawrence Salad (see page 50) so it would embrace the brown butter flavour bound into this dressing. What I’m saying here is that this dressing can withstand big flavours—roots, fruit, cheese, nuts, and raw, bitter mustard greens—all in one big bowl. That it can also stand up as a sauce for seared fish or even be drizzled over grilled pork chops is our little secret. If you master making this and keep it around your kitchen, you too can shine like a drunk guy lucking out in the kitchen.