The non-traditional side dish | Rock Candy

Monday, November 23, 2015

The non-traditional side dish

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 9:46 AM

click to enlarge Collard greens with pig's feet - MICHAEL ROBERTS
  • Michael Roberts
  • Collard greens with pig's feet

Sweet potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce are all great, and I'm sure you'll all eat your fill of those things this week during the various feasts and meals you attend. But let's talk about a some non-traditional side dishes that can make Thanksgiving a more interesting holiday—and keep people from getting bored with eating the same old, same old all weekend. I'm talking, of course, about greens.

Collard, turnip or mustard—greens are great. Add in some onions, garlic, peppers and something porky (like pig's feet or ham hocks) and you've got a dish that's good the first day, better the second day and probably gone by the third. Good with turkey and stuffing, good with cornbread—just plain good. It's Turkey day greens, and you should make some.

Here's a few different ways to prepare greens that are sure to please the palate and dress up your table:

Michael's Basic Arkansas Foodies Greens

*1-2 big bunches of greens. These can be collards, turnip, or mustard greens.
*1-2 pig’s trotters, split in half. Alternately, use a ham hock or two. Or some salt pork. Or even some bacon grease. The main point is to get something porky and fatty into these greens to help create some rich pot-liquor. I’m using pig’s feet because they have an excellent balance of meat, fat, and bone; and you need all those things to make good pot liquor.
*1 onion, chopped
*1-4 cloves garlic, chopped. Depends on how much garlic you like.
*2 fresh jalapeno peppers, tops cut off, left whole
*1/2 cup distilled vinegar
*Salt and Pepper to taste

Add everything to a large kettle except the vinegar. Cover with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a slow simmer. Simmering is important because it allows the trotters to release their good flavor without overcooking the greens. Once you’ve got a good pot liquor going (meaning some of the fat has rendered into the water), add your vinegar – this helps counterbalance the bitterness of the the greens and will help release the flavor of the peppers. I view vinegar to be more of a spice than a condiment, because adding some acidic flavor to a dish can brighten and enhance the flavor without ever being sour.

Cooking time can vary with how you like your greens, but I wouldn’t go any less than 2 hours. Taste your greens as they cook – you’re looking for the perfect balance of rich, subtle bitterness, savory pork and onion goodness, and a bit of bright spice from the peppers, garlic and vinegar. You can remove the pig’s trotter (or ham hocks) and pick the meat from it, returning the pork bits back to the pot. Retain the liquid the greens cooked in – this rich broth is perfect for pouring over cornbread or peas and can make an interesting flavor addition to vegetable soup. 

Braised Greens from Kelly Carney, North Pulaski Farms
(originally appeared in Arkansas Food and Farm)

*3 bunches of turnip greens, rinsed and soaked, stems removed and reserved
*1 mac­a­roni pep­per, sliced
*5 slices Freckle Face Farm bacon, sliced
*2 jalapeños, sliced sea salt to taste

Coarsely chop the stems. In a Dutch oven, com­bine the chopped stems, mac­a­roni pep­per, jalapeños and bacon. Add salt and cook on medium-high for 15 min­utes, stir­ring occa­sion­ally. Roughly chop the leaves of the greens and add to the pan. Press the greens down flat with a spat­ula or spoon and add water until it cov­ers the greens by 2 inches. Cook on high until boil­ing, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 min­utes. Drain and serve imme­di­ately, or keep in the broth to allow fla­vor to develop over the next 1–2 days.

What about you all? How do you like your greens? Do you make any other non-traditional sides for Thanksgiving? Let us know down there in the comments.

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