Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Southern Sides: Braised Collard Greens and Creamed Corn

Smoked turkey hock, a bunch of collard greens and Beck's Cajun spice

Despite the fact that Reading Terminal Market is firmly affixed above the Mason Dixon Line, it offers a respectable array of southern food and ingredients.  We are, of course, delighted to report this, given the fact that we recently hosted a Kentucky Derby Party as part of a charity fundraiser for a local school - none of us backed the winning horse, unfortunately...

Collard greens grace many a southern dinner table and are readily available from a number of the merchants at the Market.  What we needed, however, was a fail-safe recipe for how to cook them.  We scouted around for inspiration at the Market, settling upon the Down Home Diner, which carries them all year round on its menu.  As a Brit, I'd not eaten collard greens until about a month ago...and had no idea how to cook them. I tried them at the Diner and managed to grab its chef and owner, Jack McDavid, for tips on how to prepare this Southern staple.  

Jack grew up on a farm in Virginia, where he learned a healthy respect for fresh produce.  He  continues to advocate for the farm to table movement and wow his customers with authentic, fresh food from, as he calls it, "The Best Market in the World."  Jack was kind enough to share his collard green recipe with us, and it was truly a revelation.  He uses no water

Prepping the greens was a labor of large bunch wilts down to a small pile of cooked collards.  For our dinner party of ten, I prepped five whole bunches of greens, which equated to an entire sinkful. 
That's right, all you folks who have been boiling greens for years, (my fellow hostess for the Kentucky Derby Dinner included) apparently it's just not necessary, as Jack counsels:  "The vegetables contain mostly water, so as they cook down, they bring out their own liquid and that enhances the flavor."  We discovered that this is absolutely right!

To make Collard Greens Jack's Way:

2 bunches rinsed collard greens, center ribs removed
1 smoked turkey neck/hock or leg
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

In large stock pot,  heat oil, and add smoked turkey and any seasonings (I love onions, so I also included a large Spanish onion, which I finely chopped and threw in with the garlic cloves; I also like a bit of spice so added a little of the Beck's Devil Dust seasoning to Jack's recipe).  Saute briefly, 5 mins or so to release flavors.  Add greens, and turn with tongs to distribute flavorings.  Cover, lower heat, and braise for a minimum of 20-30 minutes, turning frequently with tongs so greens do not stick to pan.  When greens are completely cooked and wilted, add remaining ingredients to season.  Pull bits of smoked turkey from the bone and add them to the greens if desired. 

A number of the merchants at the Market stock smoked turkey.  We bought ours from Giunta's

Another insider tip Jack shared with us..."The greens are good today, but even better tomorrow."  If you let the greens sit in the fridge for a day or two then the flavors intensify and blend beautifully with the greens - you can then reheat them either on the stove or in the microwave.
Keri has also used this 'no-water' technique successfully with kale, and substituted ginger/garlic/soy for the turkey neck to accompany Asian dishes with beautiful results.  Never again shall we adulterate any of our greens with unnecessary water... 
Rice and corn:  southern staples.
Married to a Southerner, Keri is well versed in Southern cuisine, she takes over here:

Corn is another staple of southern cooking, used in virtually every form:  ground corn meal for bread; hominy for grits; fresh off the cob as a favorite summer vegetable; and the list goes on.  With that in mind, we couldn't very well host a Kentucky Derby Party without showcasing corn in a supporting role.  Hence our visit to Pennsylvania General Store for their super sweet Copes Dried Corn, which we used to make creamed corn with rice for our southern dinner.   

To make this carb-alicious dish, simply follow the directions on the package for the creamed corn, and separately, make an equivalent amount of long grain white rice.  When both components are done, mix them, add some salt and pepper, and voila:  carb heaven!

And this is just the side dishes.  Wait 'til you see the mile-high dessert!

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