When I was a kid I used to keep a map of all the Cracker Barrel restaurants in America in my jewellery box. It just sat there all year long, beside my other treasures such as:
- Lisa Frank stickers I’d snuck from my sister’s room
- necklaces I’d swiped from the game Pretty Pretty Princess
- chocolate covered bon-bons I’d pilfered from my bubie’s stash
- notes to and from my imaginary friend Mamilla
To say that I had a fixation with Cracker Barrel would be like saying …since we’re already on the subject…that a crack addict has a “fixation” with crack. Its true, but it doesn’t go far enough in describing my relationship toward the popular American restaurant chain. As far as the map goes? I would take it out of its prized location in my jewellery box once a year on family road trips, when I would force my parents to plan our entire journey around which rest stops did or did not contain a Cracker Barrel. Something that combination of toys, muskoka chairs & lard was utterly bewitching my younger self.
Today as I make summer plans to go on several road trips, some of them to America, I can’t help but get a little of that ol’ Cracker Barrel fever (one must always use folksy shorthand when referencing a Cracker Barrel). This recipe is inspired by their Turnip Greens & Ham.
Sweet n’ Savoury Apple Braised Kale
- olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced finely
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 slices of finely chopped veggie/turkey/standard bacon OR a few dashes of hickory flavoured liquid smoke
- 1/2 bunch kale, lower stems removed
- 1/2 apple, diced
- 1 cup veggie broth
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
- pinch of sugar
- Heat a small amount of oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add shallot, garlic and bacon if using sautee for about a until fragrant (and meat is mostly cooked, if using). Add kale and stir to combine.
- Add broth, liquid smoke (if using), apples, mustard, 1 tbsp of balsamic & sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low simmer for about 15-20 min or until most of the liquid has cooked off and apples are cooked.
- As a last step, raise heat once again. Add in the last tbsp of balsamic and quickly reduce, tossing to combine with the greens for about 30 seconds-1 min or until they are well coated. Serve immediately.
Optional: Remove greens and add 1 more cup of water or broth to the cooking liquid. Add protein of choice (fish or thinly sliced tempeh are ideal) and poach in liquid, serve on top of greens. Reduce remaining liquid by half and serve as a jus.