Mrs. O is off luxuriating in the fleshpots of Grand Rapids this week, hanging with her fellow button collectors, leaving me to console myself with cooking and consuming some things that I like and she does not. Greens is a good category to begin with, as her taste for those things stops shortly after spinach. I had gotten a very nice inch-thick pork steak from Marconda Meats, in the LA Farmer's Market, and after looking at likely side-vegetables I decided that the collard greens would be perfect.
These were a lot more mature than most of my recipes called for, but I went ahead anyway and stripped out the main ribs, then rolled up each leaf and sliced it into narrow strips, and put these into a big bowl of cold water for an hour or so while the pork came up to room temp. Then I chopped up two slices of good bacon and cooked that in my big nonstick pot, then drained most of the fat and poured in a like amount of canola oil. When that was up to heat I drained the collards and dropped them into the pot, dashed in some salt, and stir-fried the greens for a while, then lowered the heat and put the lid on. They cooked like this for a good 40 minutes - I had to add some water when they ran dry and started to scorch - and eventually became tender enough to chew and swallow, though hardly melting, at which point I stirred in a couple of dashes of Tabasco and put the pot on the hot tray while the pork braised and I mashed some potatoes.
It was all pretty good - I really like the more intense flavor of greens done this way - but I'm wondering if I should maybe have parboiled and blanched them instead of just soaking. All the recipes I've seen call for either stir-frying very young ones or boiling the bejayzus out of the older ones; waddaya think? A bit more tenderness would have been welcome.
I was taught to eat collards after a frost has nipped them, so they are definitely older collards that get cooked a long time. Since it takes so long here to get that frost sometimes I have popped them in the freezer for a bit, like maybe an hour or so. It think it helps to tebderize them a bit, water expanding in the cells etc.
I like to add a dried chipotle to the pot along with a smoked hock or ham shank. Sometimes I do a Mexican twist on them and do a combo of mustard, collards, and turnip greens with garlic, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, the smoky pork, dried chipotle and a dried ancho and cascabells or gaujilos. It depends on what I have on hand. Oh BTW, fish that chipotle out of there, I had a guest hurt himself on one I did not find and I was trying to be careful.
With plain greens I season them on my plate with hot pepper vinegar.
I've always simmered them with a little sugar, apple cider or balsamic vinegar, red pep. flakes, and a smoked turkey leg or thigh for like an hour. If they are still not tender - just keep simmering and add more chicken broth.
I usually blanch them and then also add water when cooking. And sometimes you do need to add water as they cook.
The way my mom did, but it's SO much better with a big thick one: have the meat well-salted and at room temp, then rinse and dry it. Trim, chop and try out some of the fat in a heavy skillet or chicken fryer. When there's enough to cook the meat, put it in and cook (med-high flame) on one side for a minute or two, then turn it over and spread a "sufficient" amount of prepared horseradish over the top. After another minute or so, turn it again and apply horseradish to the other side. After 3-4 minutes, turn again and pour enough flat beer in the pan to come halfway up the side of the meat (another good reason for cooking thick pieces). Cover the pan, lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about half an hour. When the meat is done to your satisfaction, remove it to a warm platter and cook the juice down, scraping up all the goodies, and serve that as sauce/gravy/whatever.
Probably not the best thing for a guy subject to gout, but it made this one pretty happy!
Will Owen, using the freezer to soften fibers in greens is a neat trick. Several Southerners told me about this and I've never looked back. When I bring them home, I strip out the centers and stick them in a ziplock bag for a day, week or month. Crumbling them before putting them in the pot is also helpful. It absolutely does cut down on cooking time for the tougher old stems but it's still a bit lengthy. A heart-smart Southerner told me she uses smoked turkey leg stock to cut down on the pork fat and I swear that I couldn't tell the difference -- but maybe her liberal use of chile peppers could have been partly responsible.
Tell about Marconda Meats, please. I remember Johnny Tusquellas (Tusquellas Meats) at the LA Farmers' Market from many years ago.