The holiday season is all about nog, cookies, crackers, and cheese. In other words, the holidays do not favor dietary restrictions of any kind. Decided to give up gluten? Say hello to shortbread. Decided to kick dairy? This slab of triple cream brie says otherwise. With all these rich and carb-tastic indulgences in our midst, it’s easy to lose things like greens or self-control in the shuffle. And while the holidays only come but once a year, scurvy can hit whenever. So, allow me to introduce you to the healthiest, most indulgent holiday salad I can muster – this Mushroom Confit Kale Salad with Blistered Red Grapes. It’ll boost your vitamin intake while holding its own flavor-wise next to a mountain of mashed potatoes.
Yes, the holidays are here again to ruin us. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy working out and looking good, but I also enjoy pie for breakfast. I think the holidays are weirdly good for us. With social media reinforcing our need to appear perfect at all times, I think it’s nice to have humble moments when one succumbs to the power of pate. We don’t let our hair down enough. Sometimes life isn’t about planning your next ideal step. Sometimes life is just for living and to me, living is eating stilton and cream crackers with abandon.
So, as you can see I am a glutton and I need to be let off my leash from time to time. But I also do enjoy vegetables, covered in cheese or otherwise, so please know this salad isn’t about getting you to make better choices this holiday season. Your choices are fine. You won’t hear any proclamations like “summer bodies being built in the winter” from me. I just think vitamin C is super important regardless of what level of debauchery you happen to find yourself at. Hence the kale salad.
Yes, a holiday kale salad. Doesn’t sound loaded with joie de vivre does it? Well, to counteract the general bummer that tends to follow kale wherever it goes, I added rich mushroom confit and sweet blistered red grapes. Oh and if mushrooms poached in olive oil wasn’t decadent enough for you, I threw in some cambozola too. See? The kale in this Mushroom Confit Kale Salad is the only healthy thing in it.
Let’s Talk Mushroom Confit
Have you ever confited? Do you know what’s involved? Well, brace yourself because it’s a whole lot of fat. Duck confit is probably the most familiar form of confit. A duck leg is seared and then cooked low and slow while fully immersed in duck fat. The result is ultra moist and ultra-rich meat. But just because duck confit is the most popular doesn’t mean you can’t have other forms of confit.
Now, I’m sure the obvious problem you have arrived at is mushrooms don’t have fat. Well, if you’re making mushroom confit for non-vegetarians, you have the option to cook the mushrooms in lard. But I wanted to keep things vegetarian, so I made my mushroom confit using olive oil.
Let’s Talk Process
For something that sounds as fancy as “confit”, it’s actually a very simple process. You simply brown the mushrooms, add a few herbs and aromatics and positively drown everything in olive oil. From there you bring the oil’s temperature up to 170° F and hold it there as best you can for 20 minutes. That’s it!
Now, I’m sure you’re more than a little concerned about all that oil. Well, I can’t say mushroom confit is “light” but you can take comfort in the fact that a lot of the oil is strained off. But please, don’t discard it! The oil takes on a wonderful flavor and it is the base for the vinaigrette in this Mushroom Confit Kale Salad. You will have oil leftover, but save that for all your sauteing needs. It elevates everything it touches.
Why Blister a Grape?
Popping grapes into the oven is a great way to intensify their flavor. The grape’s sugars have the opportunity to caramelize resulting in a gorgeous depth of flavor. And the color? Well, let’s just say, I’m desperate to find a dress in this particular shade of blistered grape. Another reason to blister a grape: It’s easy. You simply toss the suckers in olive oil and throw them in the oven. I think the better question is “Why not blister a grape?”.
Putting It Together
Now, I have one more tip on how to make a kale salad more palatable – marinate it. Okay, I get it, that takes time and who has it? It really doesn’t have to be for a dog’s age. All you have to do is toss the kale in the vinaigrette and let it sit for at least an hour. The acidity and oil in the dressing will quiet the fibrous nature of the kale and you will have an essentially tender leaf salad waiting in your fridge. I would suggest leaving the mushroom confit, blistered grapes, nuts, and cheese separate until just before serving.
So, that’s everything you need to know about this Mushroom Confit Kale Salad. It’s salty, sweet and surprisingly meaty for being meatless. This salad delivers the richness of a holiday meal and a whole lot of badly needed greens.
Mushroom Confit Kale Salad with Blistered Red Grapes
- Candy Thermometer
- 1 cup olive oil divided
- 2 shallots halved and sliced
- 227 g (8 oz) cremini mushrooms sliced
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1/2 lemon zest of
- 1 tsp green peppercorns*
Blistered Red Grapes
- 1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Mushroom Confit Kale Salad
- 1 bunch kale stems removed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup oil from the Mushroom Confit
- 2 lemons juiced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 batch Mushroom Confit
- 1 batch Blistered Red Grapes
- 1/2 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
- 200g (7 oz) Camboloza cheese thinly sliced
For the Mushroom Confit
- In a large deep skillet, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sweat the shallots until just translucent.
- Increase the heat to medium and add the mushrooms. Saute until browned, about 7-10 minutes. Toss in the garlic and saute the cloves until lightly browned, about 3 minutes more.
- Place the thyme, bay leaves, lemon zest, and peppercorns on top of the mushrooms. Add the remaining oil and add a large pinch of salt. Heat the oil to 170°F. Use a candy thermometer to help you measure and maintain the oil's temperature. Let the mushrooms cook for 20 minutes.
- Take the mushrooms off of the heat. Remove the aromatics and pour the mushrooms into a fine-mesh strainer. Drain the oil into a waiting bowl and set aside for later use. Let the mushrooms and oil cool completely.
For the Grapes
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place the grapes in a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt and ground pepper. Toss to coat.
- Transfer the dressed grapes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lay the sprigs of thyme on top and place the baking sheet in the oven. Roast the grapes for 15 minutes before turning the oven to broil. Broil for 5 more minutes or until the grapes start to blister.
- Take the grapes out of the oven and set aside to cool.
For the Salad
- Place the kale in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the confit oil, lemon juice, garlic, whole grain mustard, honey, and salt. Add as much or as little of this dressing to the kale and toss to coat. Place the salad in the fridge and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
- When an hour has passed, top the salad with the blistered grapes, mushroom confit, walnuts, and cambozola cheese. Serve immediately with festive flair.