Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Collard Greens and Biscuits

Although I'm a big fan of gumbo, shrimp & grits, and the like, I don't cook a lot of Southern-style food at home. But on a recent trip to the grocery store, I noticed big bags of collards on sale and thought why not make a "mess o' greens" for dinner one night?

I had made greens twice before, but a dozen years ago by now. The first time, I used bundles of fresh collards which required stem stripping and thorough washing. The second time, I thought I'd get smart and buy frozen greens, which I assume had been de-stemmed. Wrong. Even after hours of cooking, chunks of stem retained their odd sharp crispness. It was like eating a bowl of razor blades.

The bagged greens should have been pre- cleaned and trimmed, but I still found tons of stem while giving them a bath. Bah. Better to buy whole greens and do it all from scratch. That said, they still tasted pretty great after several hours spent sharing a pot with three hamhocks and some spices.

Man, however, does not live by greens and hamhocks alone. Biscuits were also necessary to sop up all of that gorgeous "pot likker." And by biscuits, I mean drop biscuits with cheddar cheese and chives. And duck fat. There was a pint of duck fat left over from Thanksgiving dinner, and I put some of it to good use as a substitute for shortening in the biscuits.

Best biscuits I ever made. They were so tender and fluffy, they were practically floating off the table. It had to be the duck fat.

Collard Greens

3 smoked ham hocks
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning (I used Emeril's Essence)
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 lbs collard greens
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add ham hocks and Creole seasoning. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour.

Wash the collard greens thoroughly. Remove the stems that run down the center (they are tough). T Stack 6 to 8 leaves on top of one another, roll up, and cut into a chiffonade Place greens in pot with meat; cook for 60 - 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. When done, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cheese Drop Biscuits

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup duck fat (you can use shortening)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in duck fat with a fork or your fingers. Stir in milk and cheese. Drop by large spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 425°F for 10-12 minutes. Makes 6 fist-sized biscuits or 8-10 smaller ones.

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