Collard greens are one of my favorite things to eat. I have been making them for longer than I care to remember. Recently we went to a new restaurant and as soon as I saw grits and greens on the menu, I knew what i wanted to order. I took the first bite and almost fell on the floor. These were like no greens I had ever tasted before. They were piquant with a rich smoky flavor. It was like I had fireworks going off in my mouth as each taste bud lit up. They were so good we returned to the restaurant two days later so I could get them again. I did everything I could to wrangle the recipe out of them but they would not budge. So, I ordered some to take home with me and set my mind on duplicating them at home. I am determined when it comes to this. I live in fear I will taste something I love and not be able to recreate it. Recipes like these keep me awake at night. I can't rest until I have replicated it. In the food world, this is called reverse engineering.
Pardon the first photos today. I am not naming names but someone borrowed my camera to take a quick pics of something and changed the settings without me knowing it. I took a bunch of photos before I realized this so they are of very poor quality. No one is named but his initials are TBT.
I got up very early and very excited to take on this task. Cooking for me is almost always done in my head in advance of touching the first ingredient. I had this virtually figured out before I started. I don't have a beginning pic for the above mentioned reason but the first thing I did was fill a large pot with chicken stock and added 2 ham hocks, some turkey neck bones, several smoked turkey wings and smoked tails. I brought this to a boil and then simmered it for a couple of hours to make a robust smoky stock. Fry 1/2 pound of bacon in a frying pan until crisp and drain it on a paper towel. Leave the grease in the pan.
While the stock was simmering I decided to make a cheese and corn casserole to accompany it. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a heavy pot. Pay no attention to the whole stick, I cut it in half after I realized I added too much!
Add 4 0z. of cream cheese.
Add 1 can of green chilies. I used mild but you can add whatever you want.
Stir them into the butter and cream cheese.
Add 2 12 oz. bags of shoepeg corn to the pot.
Stir until the corn is heated through.
Shred 4 oz. of cheddar cheese.
Add a bit of salt and pepper to the corn.
Place 8 Ritz crackers in a plastic bag and smash them into crumbs.
Place the corn mixture in a shallow casserole pan.
Top it with the shredded cheddar.
Pour 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the crackers and shake the bag to combine.
Sprinkle over the cheddar. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Add 1 large diced onion to the bacon grease in the pan.
You need a whole jar of peperoncinis for this recipe. Drizzle in a bit of the juice at this point to loosen up the brown bits in the pan.
Ah ha...finally the lights come on! Sorry again for so many bad pics but you know who to blame it on! These are the bones simmering for the stock and smelling very good.
Sprinkle the onions with some seasoned salt. A lot of this recipe is to taste but I will try to give you measurements when I can. I would say this was about 1/2 teaspoon of seasoned salt.
I also used some of my minced bacon because it imparts such smokiness. You can skip this step or make your own minced bacon.
This is the corn casserole right out of the oven.
Mince 6 cloves of garlic and add them to the onions.
Remove all the bones from the stock. Add 2 containers of Knorr's chicken concentrate and whisk. Add 1/2 cup of cider vinegar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Taste the stock. It should have a very good flavor at this point and you aren't even close to the end! Now, add the garlic and the whole jar of peppers with their juice. These peppers are mild so this is not a fiery recipe. Add the onions now.
Slice the fried bacon and add it.
Bring this to a boil and let it bubble away. It's fun because the peppers bob around like they are wearing life jackets while they ooze out flavor.
Add 2 pounds of chopped collards.
Simmer this for a couple of hours.
These are my leftover cheese grits from the other day.
I fried these in a nonstick pan to serve with the greens.
Fry until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Omg...these turned out even better than the ones at the restaurant.
I will never make greens any other way!