I’ll let you in on one of my quick-and-easy meal secrets. When it comes to making dinner on a typical night I rarely worry about having a meat-starch-vegetable kind of ‘balanced meal.’ We still eat those things come dinner time but instead of making it as three separate dishes, I’m generally looking for ways to get in into one or two. That’s how this kale, apple, sausage skillet was born.
As a cook, I am nothing if not lazy. I’m always looking for ways to shorten a list of steps or cut down on the number of pots and pans I have to clean. A dish that is a complete meal with one pan and one cutting board is something I’m always willing to try.
This recipe actually came from a dinner party I went to ages ago where the host served some kind of meat (it’s been too long, I can’t remember) that was stuffed with a mixture of kale, apple, and sausage. The meal was great but through the haze of wine all I can remember is how good that stuffing was.
Let’s break down why this is such a great one-dish meal. The meat gives the meal some staying power and the apples give it a sweet-savory vibe. The kale provides some textual contrast even during long cooking, unlike spinach which just falls apart under high heat. And the sausage seasonings mean that you don’t have to add anything seasoning to the pan except salt. There are not a lot of easier dishes out there.
As much as I love one-dish meals, I realize they have a tendency to feel like mush if you aren’t careful about what goes into them. Ingredients that break down when cooked for a while help to hold the dish together but too many and it starts to feel like there’s nothing to chew on. There are two ways to avoid that: use vegetables that maintain some chew after long cooking or add some crunch at the end in the form of chopped nuts or croutons (this a modern take on stuffing). The kale is what’s keeping this from being a one-texture meal but I wouldn’t say no to a handful of chopped hazelnuts or pecans at the end.
Of course, once you have the formula down, you don’t have to be limited to the ingredients I used here. The crumbled sausage could make way for chorizo or linguica. The apples could become bites of potato or squash. If you’re sick of kale (how could you be sick of kale??) change it up for some broccoli. At the end of the night, you’ll still only have one pan to clean.
Kale, Apple, Sausage Skillet
Serves two as a whole dinner or four if served with a salad or side dish
The leftovers will last up to a week in the fridge and it reheats beautifully so feel free to multiply the recipe.
1 medium bunch lacinato or dino kale*
1 medium onion, medium dice (about ½ inch pieces)*
1 lb sausage meat (not in casings)
3-4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch cubes (approximately)
2 tbs olive oil
Heat a large skillet (at least 10 inches) over medium heat and add the oil. When it’s warm, add the onion and crumble the sausage into the pan. If you don’t crumble it, you’ll have a lot of work breaking it up as it cooks; putting it in the pan in crumbles means you’ll have varied size pieces in the final dish.
Cook the onions and sausage over medium heat until the sausage is about halfway cooked, about 5 minutes. Then add the apple pieces and cook for another 10 minutes, until the apples are soft and a little browned. Stir occasionally while they cook.
When everything is cooked to your liking, add the kale and 1 tsp of kosher salt and cover the pan as well as you can with a lid. Don’t worry if the edges of the pan peek out from the lid, we’re not looking for an airtight seal. Keep the pan covered for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid and stir. Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning if you think it needs more salt. Continue to cook for another few minutes until the kale is fully cooked and the dish has had a few minutes to simmer together. Serve hot or warm.
*Lacinato kale, also called dino kale, is dark green and the leaves don’t curl at the edges like traditional kale. The difference is like that between curly parsley and flat-leaf. I like the flavor and texture better but if you don’t feel free to use the kind of kale available near you.
** You can tell from the photos I used red onion but I’ve also made this dish with white onions and both are delicious. Just use what you have at home. You could even include shallots if you’re feeling fancy