Caldo verde, a Portuguese soup made with sausage, potatoes, and collards (or kale, in my version) is peasant food at its finest: simple, fragrant, and filling. I cannot stop making caldo verde. And when I make it, I cannot stop eating it. I got hooked on making the soup when I tried to recreate a recipe I’d tasted in Porto (Portugual) using Breton smoked sausage and local kale. It was sublime, but really, any good sausage will work, even soy chorizo for a vegetarian version. And any dark, leafy green will work as well.
I am so enamored of caldo verde that I’ve even served it at a dinner party—a big risk in France, where dinner parties tend towards the elegant and most people prefer their soups blended, not chunky. But it was what I wanted—what I craved—on a cold, wet, winter evening. It could be made ahead and eaten around the wood stove. Plus, it left room for cheese and dessert.
8 oz. (250 g.) smoked sausage, chorizo, soy chorizo or your choice of sausage, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 Tbs. olive oil, optional
2 small onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 lb. Idaho, russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
8 oz. (250 g.) kale, collards, or other dark, leafy greens (even radish tops!), stems removed, coarsely chopped
Cook the sausage in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Reserve about 2 Tbs. sausage grease in the saucepan, or add enough olive oil to have 2 Tbs. total oil/grease. Add the onions, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat, or until translucent. Add the potatoes, garlic, and 4 cups (1 liter) water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and falling apart.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, and mash the potatoes in the soup to thicken it. (It’s OK –and even better—if some large chunks remain.) Return the saucepan to the heat, add the kale and the cooked sausage, and cover the pot once more. Continue to cook 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the kale is tender but still bright green. Thin the soup with more water, if necessary, and serve.