Bacony Salt And Vinegar Kale Chips

I didn’t think it was possible to improve on kale chips until I made a salt and vinegar version. Then I achieved kale chip nirvana when I swapped out one of the two tablespoons of olive oil in the recipe for bacon grease. You may lose a few health points for the substitution, but the calories are the same and it bumps the flavor up to snack food heaven: smoky, bacony and salty with a mild bite from the vinegar.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about salt and vinegar lately, dreaming about the vinegar-doused fries and pungent salt and vinegar chips of my childhood. Jason and I leave soon for a week-long trip to London that will include a brief excursion to Tonbridge, where I spent nearly the first four years of my life. My fantastic parents took me along on their travels, most of which I remember only through these photos.

Here I am in England’s beautiful Lake District.

With my mother and a family friend on the outskirts of Liverpool.

 At St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. 

On a cliffwalk with my dad (and his white jeans).

With my mother at Sweetheart Abbey in Scotland.

And here I am at 9 years old standing outside my school in Tonbridge, where we returned for several months while my dad was doing his dissertation research.

My son thinks I look like a Harry Potter character. I take that as a compliment.

I cannot find any pictures from the summer we spent in Frinton, a small seaside town in Essex. My dad was a minister, and we did a church/house exchange with another minister and his family. I was 15, had poofy, permed hair and wore dark purple lipstick. That’s all you need to know.

In college, I spent a raucous semester abroad in London, living in a house with 25 other students and subsisting primarily on Cadbury chocolate and Nutella. Among the many foolish things our group did during our stay – house floods, fires and collapsed ceilings come to mind – we managed to get kicked out of Stonehenge.

I may or may not be responsible for this.

My parents took me to Stonehenge as a little girl, and my memory of it was very different from what I saw when I returned. I didn’t remember it being roped off to prevent visitors from walking up to the stones. I told my friends that years ago, I didn’t think there was a rope, that I remembered a picture of me and my mother standing next to the huge stones. Close enough, I said, to touch them

You can guess what tomfoolery happened next.

Several students from our group hurdled the rope and rushed Stonehenge. Here is my friend, Amanda, minutes before being whisked away by security.

As it turns out, my memory was slightly off. Here is the picture I thought I so vividly recalled — Mom and I are standing in front of a rope and, um, not so close.

Apologies to Dr. S., our professor in residence, who had to do the bus drive of shame back to London.

Stonehenge is not in our upcoming trip itinerary, but we do plan to venture back to my college stomping grounds in Kensington, visit one of the oldest pubs in London and check out a few of London’s noted restaurants, including The Ledbury. We hope to grab a country pub lunch on our way to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. We look forward to visiting with old friends in Tonbridge and having a few new adventures, hopefully none involving security.

I have, for some time, wanted to share recipes based on my experiences in England, and I have a feeling this trip will provide just the inspiration.

BACONY SALT AND VINEGAR KALE CHIPS

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, approximately 8 stems
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon grease, melted (does not need to be hot / just needs to be liquid)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (if using another vinegar, reduce to 1 tablespoon)
Sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash kale and tear leaves into pieces, removing the stems. Dry the kale in a salad spinner or blot dry with a kitchen towel. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, bacon grease and vinegar. Add the kale and toss with large spoons or your hands, making sure all pieces are coated. Spread the kale in a single layer on two lightly-oiled baking trays. Bake for 6 minutes. Stir the kale around so that it cooks evenly. Rotate the trays. Bake for another 4-6 minutes or until the pieces are crisp. Taste a kale chip before adding any salt. Because rice vinegar is salty, the kale may not need additional salt.

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