Tuesday, March 31, 2015

100 year old collard greens recipe

Jimmy has been pestering me for about two weeks  now to make one of his favorite meals.   Beans, cornbread and collard greens.  Folks from the southern U.S. will  just nod when they read this. Beans, cornbread and collard greens is a classic southern meal.  Its a dietary staple.  To my Connecticut born, Los Angeles raised  husband, it is gourmet cooking.   In this day of pre-packaged everything, he might be right.    The rest of Seattle  seems to think so.  Collards are popping up on menus all over town.    Sometimes they are ok (just ok) but most of the time they are pretty disgusting. Seattleites  really don't  know what to do with this  vegetable that is relatively new to their foodscape. Collards are a tricky vegetable. If they are cooked incorrectly they smell bad, taste bad and the texture  can be unpalatable. I am reminded of a restaurant in Ballard that served me watery,  underdone, collard syrup...yeeccchhhh!  I'm certain someone told the chef that the secret to collards is to add sugar.   But boiling up the contents of your hummingbird feeder and  blanching some greens in it is not the answer.  Southern cooks have had a couple hundred years to  learn how to make collards  taste good.  Collards are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat but,  that vitamin, mineral and antioxidant bomb  is packed tightly  in tough leaves with a bitterness that will pucker your whole face.    The following recipe  is time tested to make  diners go from  'I'm not eating that smelly ,disgusting mess' to 'May I have some more please'.

 4 to 6 cups of washed, chopped collards (usually one bunch)
1 medium onion , chopped
1 cup chopped/diced bacon or salt pork
2 tablespoons  butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder 
1 teaspoon  red pepper flakes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup  apple cider vinegar

In a 6 or 8 quart stew pot, caramelize  your onion in the butter and brown sugar.  When your onion is almost caramelized  add your  bacon or  salt pork and continue to cook for 1 or 2 minutes longer  or until onions are finished. Then add your mustard, red pepper , orange juice and vinegar.  Bring that all to a boil while stirring.  Then add your collards and fill stew pot  with water. Bring it to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce temperature to drop it to a simmer.  Stir occasionally. Let simmer for about an hour and then remove the lid and  raise temp to bring it to a low boil for about 20 minutes to a half hour.  At this point you want to boil it  down but you don't want to boil it dry.   You want  your liquid to  solid ratio  to  be about half and half. 
On salting your collards: If your bacon or salt pork is adequately  salty you should not need to add salt.     If you are going to add salt ,wait until the last 15 minutes to do so.