Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Day for "Honest Foods" in the Kitchen

It's 56 degrees and overcast, which is like being tossed back into winter after these past couple of days; fortunately the rain they were predicting doesn't seem to be materializing, so it's just dreary and drizzly.  This is one of those "if God gives you lemons....." kind of days, so it's been a perfect excuse for some cooking.  Looking at the bright side of icky weather, it's the perfect day for some old fashioned, honest foods.

I haven't cooked collards in years, but they're up and beautiful in the walled garden at the Big House.  Before passing on the recipe to Mrs. that I have marked "Awesome" in my file, I thought I should make a batch just to see if I still feel that way about this recipe.  It's from Gourmet magazine at least 15 years ago, with some minor tweaking from me.

Collard Greens with Red Onion and Bacon
(serves at least 8, probably 12)

1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 c. chopped red onions
1-1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 T. packed dark brown sugar
1 t. red pepper flakes
3 lb. collards, chopped and rinsed

In a heavy pot, cook the bacon until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels.  Pour off all but 3 T of the bacon fat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove the onions with a slotted spoon to a bowl and hold aside.

To the kettle, add the broth, vinegar, sugar, pepper flakes, and half the bacon, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add about half the collards (until you feel they'll start falling out of the pan), and let them wilt down until you have room to add the rest.  Cover and simmer/steam for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the onions to the pot, recover, and simmer another 30 minutes.

I still think it's a pretty awesome recipe!

I also made Cuban Black Beans, for absolutely no reason other than my recent craving.  It's another of those foods that is best when made with the plain old-fashioned methods and "honest foods," without shortcuts.

Cuban Black Beans
(makes one big pot)

2 lbs dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
4 qt cold water
1 ham hock (or smoked pork neck bones)
12 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-1/2 cups of olive oil
4 c. chopped yellow onions
6 fresh banana peppers, diced
1-1/2 T salt
2 t. black pepper
2 bay leaves
4 T. sugar
5 t. oregano, divided
1 c. red wine
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. cumin

Drain the beans, put into a pot with the cold water and the ham hock, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook one hour.  Meanwhile, cook the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a heavy skillet, about 10 minutes.  Add the banana peppers to the onion mixture, and cook another 10 minutes.  (You can use any not-too-hot, sorta sweet chili pepper). 

Remove 2 cups of the beans from their pot, add it to the onion pot, and mash together, with an old-fashioned potato masher.  (DO NOT USE ANY NEW MODERN CONTRAPTIONS TO DO THIS!  NO BLENDERS, FOOD PROCESSORS, IMMERSION BLENDERS, OR THE LIKE!)  Add to the beans, along with the salt, pepper and bay leaves.  Continue to simmer 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally.  Add the sugar, 1 teaspoon of the oregano, and cook for one hour.  

Finally, add the red wine, vinegar, the balance of the oregano and the cumin, cook for 15 more minutes. 

This seems like a lot of work, but it's worth the effort, and is even better if it's made the day before serving.  Perfect to cook on a weekend, and hold for a weeknight dinner with rice and meat of some sort.  


  1. that sounds wonderful, it was one of those lemon days yesterday here...and I spent the day cooking as well....great minds;)

  2. both sound aweomse to me;)

  3. I want to try these collard greens, they sounds delicious.

  4. Oh yum, these sound good even with my early morning cup of french roast!