Saturday, January 14, 2012
Collard greens. Some people love 'em. Some people hate 'em. I fall under both categories. Or maybe you should say I've visited both sides.
Thinking back...I don't remember ever eating collard greens during my gazillion trips to the south. I'm sure my grandmother made them. I don't remember seeing them. Or even hearing about them. I'm wondering if I took one look at them and figured it was a plate of spinach and quickly moved on. (what do kids know, right?)
Believe it or not....this western gal, who's soul roots are firmly planted in Alabama, did not even taste a collard green until about 2 yrs ago. I walked into a BBQ.... place....(I can't call it a restaurant or diner. Or even a whole in the wall...). I ordered a BBQ chicken sandwich, fried okra and since I had my choice of another side...I noticed collard greens on the menu and thought...'heck, if this place has fried okra on the menu, they gotta know what they're doing'. Well, they tasted like fish. And being allergic to fish, I kinda panicked for a second there and did a very unlady like thing. I spit them right back out of my mouth. Seriously....plah...plah......PLAH! I don't even know what the dish actually tasted like....but I knew that wasn't right. Btw I never went back to that BBQ....place. The sandwich was dry and the fried okra was all wrong. It's not there anymore anyway. I assumed it had closed down but I heard a rumor that it had relocated. Someone should mention to them that Subway and Flooky's Deli competition isn't what killed their traffic.
Collard greens....Take 2: I decided my next venture with the greens would have to be from a trusted source. And should most likely occur in the south where people know what they're doing. And they do it with pride. Well....let's see. My sister Jenifer swore that she could get a can of collards from the store that were pretty good. (We didn't have time to make them...or hadn't planned on making them...I can't remember but things are crazy at her house and if anyone is home for more than 2 hrs at at ime during the day, it's a miracle). So she took me on a tour of the local Walmart (that she so lovingly calls Wally World). Have you ever seen those funny pictures or videos of Walmart shoppers? I think a lot of those were taken at this particular store. I never thought I could say "I saw a woman sit on the bacon" and mean it literally. Anyway....I watched the cart while Jenifer ran around the store like a mad woman (cuz she doesn't know how to be anything but a mad woman) and I kept changing my location (with the cart) and hiding from her (had to make it interesting)....well...bottom line. She grabbed the wrong can. Collard greens failed again.
Collard greens.....Take 3: I had just about given up and resigned to the fact that I was going to be one of those people who hated collards. But then my mom intervened. She swore that my cousin's husband, Chad had the best recipe ever. She said it was fabulous...made with wine, etc! Fast forward about 4 months.... Mom kept forgetting or couldn't find the recipe. I was starting to get anxious. I wanted to try them out for my New Years Day dinner. Silly me...I should've just asked my cousin right up front cuz she sent it to me the very next day....(Thank you Rachie!)...just in time for my big dinner plans. You see...I had never had the full on Southern Good Luck meal for New Years. I always do the black-eyed peas thing....but the greens. I'd never made the greens. I needed the greens!
That's a lot of greens...and they are a bit time consuming in the beginning...but once its done...you sit back and wait. Or make your other dishes for the meal.
Chad's Collard Greens
4 - 6 bunches of collard greens
1 onion, diced
2 ham hocks
1 TB cooking oil
6 cups of water (more if needed)
1 cup dry white wine
2 TB hot sauce (or to taste)
1 TB soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
Wash and cut the collards. Now what that really means is.... you need to remove the central stem. Fold back the leaf (which will sorta snap a bit), exposing the stem...then gently tear the leaf away and toss the stem.
I then washed the leaves (although if your collards are coming straight from the garden, you may want to wash them before removing the stem. I guess it just depends on when you want to deal with the dirt).
I then took a few leaves together and rolled them up like a cigar....sliced into 1" bits then rotated the knife and cut straight down the middle of my slices
This gave me some decent sized pieces, quickly. This filled up a very large bowl, which I set aside.
Time to get your ham hocks out
In a large stockpot, heat the oil and add the ham hocks...sauteing a bit to release some of the flavor. Carefully add the water. Then add in your wine, hot sauce and soy sauce
Hey....see that little bottle of hot sauce with the wooden cap? Does it look familiar? I don't know about you...but it seems that I've just about grown up with that stuff. Cholula Hot Sauce has been around for over 20 yrs and now it has new flavors! Chipotle, Chili Garlic and Chili Lime. I think my favorite, besides Original...is the Chili Garlic.
Anyways...back to the collards...bring the water mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add the greens and the onions,
At first, your pot is going to be really full but within a minute or so the greens will reduce down to a manageable size
Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender. When there's about 30 minutes left in the cooking time, add the sugar.
Drain out the water (see note below), sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Let's just say....Third Times a Charm! They were really good...especially with that plate of food. My favorite way to eat them is with a little slaw and black-eyed peas in the same bite.
NOTE: DON'T pour that collard green liquid down the sink when you drain it out. Save it. Give it a taste and tell me that won't make the best ever stock for soup! Not to mention that during that long cooking process, we've probably released all the wonderful nutrients into that water.