So we’re back on “the road to routine” following an incredibly fun and fast-paced week in New Orleans. Fortunately this year, the kids’ winter break coincided with Mardi Gras. So we spent last week back home frolicking about. It was awesome! But, as expected, we all ate too much and spent way too many days going to bed late and waking up early. Such is the life of a bunch of New Orleans Carnival revelers.
Now that we’re settled back in Atlanta, we’re all craving normalcy and lots of veggies (after eight days, “dressed” poor boys are simply not enough). But salads are not cutting it here. It’s too darn cold. So I’ve stocked up on bags upon bags of collards, spinach and kale. Among the three, I can turn out a mean bunch of warm and filling family favorites. First up, Creole Collard Greens. This was at the top of my list because I returned to Atlanta with several pounds of pickle meat. Pickle meat, as I’ve mentioned before, is a Creole cook’s number one seasoning meat. And it’s the perfect partner for greens—any greens. It’s so perfect, in fact, that no additional salt is needed to finish this dish. Tempting as it may be, do not add any salt to the pot! Pickle meat also lends a subtle Southern pork flavor to the greens. And the potlikker that develops when all these ingredients cook down? Divine. This is one vegetable you are going to want to serve in a bowl with a spoon. Oh, and if you want to make a meal out of these collards, simply serve them over a bed of rice.
Creole Collard Greens Recipe
1 2-pound bag cleaned and stemmed collard greens
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 pound pickle meat, diced
8 cups rich chicken stock*
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Sort through collards and strip the leaves from and discard any overlooked stems. Tear leaves into bite-size pieces. Rinse, drain and set aside. In a large pot, melt bacon fat. Add onions and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeños. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Add pickle meat and cook until no longer pink (dark pink). Stir in chicken stock, collard greens and black and cayenne peppers; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until collards and pickle meat are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and serve. Makes 6-8 servings.
*The next best thing to a rich, homemade chicken stock is a good “wet” chicken base, which, unlike powdered bouillons and bases, is a highly concentrated chicken stock paste made from a reduction of light and dark chicken meat and natural juices. I use Minor’s but I think McCormick’s makes something similar.