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At what point should I add black kale to risotto? Should I precook it?

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I cook black kale all the time, and I make risotto all the time, but I've never put the former in the latter. I usually just saute the kale (and occasionally braise it or put it in soup), so I don't really have a concept of how it would best be added to risotto.

Should I pre-saute the kale and then set it aside to add to the risotto at the end? Should I pre-boil it, reserve its cooking water to add to the risotto along with the stock, and then add the kale to the risotto at the end, as per an Epicurious recipe?

Should I not cook the kale at all beforehand, but chiffonade it and add it raw to the risotto at some point during the process, so that it will cook along with the rice? If that last option, how long before the end do you think I should add it, e.g., how long do you think the kale would need to cook? (FWIW, when I make risotto the rice always takes far longer to soften than any recipe has ever advised.)

I assume that whatever I do I shouldn't just add it at the beginning of the risotto-making process when I'm sauteing the onion and then rice; I assume the kale would break down too much, and I like it to be a little chewy but still tender. But y'all tell me, please!

And if you have a favorite recipe or other advice for adding kale to risotto, point me to it, too.

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  1. I think you should chiffonade it and add it near the end of cooking. I have done this with beet greens, and it doesn't take them long to get tender; since black kale doesn't usually need as long to cook as regular or curly kale, I think you could add it 5-7 minutes from the end and it would be fine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      This is what I'm leaning toward. Thanks!

    2. Black kale is pretty bitter. I would saute it and add it at the very end of the risotto rice cooking process, right after you add your butter. Chiffonade it pretty fine and saute with some garlic and shallots in a little butter.

      I would not add it in raw or boiled with the boiling liquid as it is going to make your risotto too bitter (there was a great thread on what to do with bitter risotto because of some dark leafy green the other week).

      By adding it in at the last minute, you will help to preserve both the flavor of the risotto as well as the kale. I would also take some of the kale and fry it up and use it as garnish. The crunchy texture would go well with the creaminess of the risotto.

      5 Replies
      1. re: jameshig

        If bitterness is a problem (i have not fond it to be) blanching and NOT using the cooking water would be the best best as it would remove some of the bitterness of the vegetable.

        1. re: chefj

          I have no problem with the vegetable's bitterness; it's an asset, as far as I'm concerned. In light of that, is there something you recommend I do, or do you think it matters?

          1. re: everybodyever

            I guess that it really depends on what you want in the finished rissoto.
            If you want lots o texture do not cut it to finely and add it towards the end.
            If you want it smooth and creamy with no textural interruption, boil it shock it and puree add at the end.
            If you want the flavor deeply integrated in the dish add it in any form add it with the first addition of stock.
            Hope that helps.
            My original response was just addressing the thought of reusing the blanching water in relation to bitterness.

        2. re: jameshig

          Good call on the fried garnish, I think I'll try that.

          I'm confused about the following: "at the very end of the risotto rice cooking process, right after you add the butter." I don't add butter at the end. Are you referring to adding butter once it's done just to make it creamy or something?

          1. re: everybodyever

            Yes, more often than not, I will add a knob of butter at the very end right before serving if it isn't creamy enough. Honestly though, if you have cooked it properly, then the starches that have leeched out should provide all the creaminess you need.