Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Collard Greens and Lentils

At this year's local SCA Twelfth Night Feast, one of the items of the feast was boiled lentils. The lentils were very simply prepared just in water with salt and pepper and possibly a small amount of animal fat. The dish could have used more flavoring, but I enjoyed it enough that I was inspired to modify it for one of my regular super cheap home recipes. And then while I was thinking of how I would improve the dish, I decided I needed to add something to it to make a more substantial meal. The lentils would be best as a side for something more hearty. At that point, I knew I needed to finally try my hand at making some collard greens. I'm southern, but nobody in my family ever made collard greens. They are one of those vegetables that I have been a little afraid to try until recently. But I had heard some wonderful things about sauteeing collard greens the European way, and I was determined to try it out. What follows is a pictorial of my experiment.

Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph the process of making the lentils. But the way I made them was the basic process of boiling beans with an animal fat. First, I soaked about 1 quarter of a package of dried red beans for 8 hours. Once those were finished soaking, I then placed them in a stockpot with two ham hocks and filled the stockpot with water until the ham hocks were covered. Then I set the water to boil. After the boiling point was reached, I let the pot simmer on Medium for several hours until the ham hocks were tender enough to pull from the bone.

By looking at the liquid in the stockpot, I knew that the flavor was going to be Incredibly dense, so I decided to take out all of the liquid, except what just covered the beans out of the pot, to reserve for later. Then I took the meat off the ham hock bones and put part of the meat in the stock pot and part in the reserved liquid. At that point it was getting late, so I simply set both containers of liquid out to cool before I put them away in the fridge for the night.

Tonight, I took the stockpot out of the fridge and put about half a bag of lentils and a quarter bag of yellow split peas in and then filled the pot up with water. I added salt and pepper and then set the pot to boil. Once boiling, I lowered the heat to Medium and simmered until lentils and peas were tender. During all of this it is important to not forget to skim the surface of the liquid of any foam or bubbles. This process reduces gas!

While the lentils were simmering, I started cooking the sausage for the collard greens. I used this Fabulous chicken sausage with sundried tomatoes!

I started with a very lightly oiled cast iron skillet with EVOO. I browned the sausage on both sides and then removed the sausage from the skillet. While the sausage was browning I sliced two baby bella mushrooms and a large garlic clove. I also thickly sliced the sausage link. Then more olive oil went into the skillet. I added the sliced ingredients and some salt and pepper and began sauteeing.

While that was going, I rolled and sliced the previously washed greens and then added those to the skillet.

At first, I thought that I may have put too much food in the skillet for me to eat on my own, but then as the greens cooked, they wilted and shrunk similar to how spinach does.

I don't know how long I sauteed everything. I just cooked until I figured the greens looked tender enough. Once I believed I was finished, I plated everything and squeezed some lemon juice and cracked some pepper over the top.

The bread you see on the plate is simply a Wheat slice toasted with butter, garlic salt, pepper and parmesean cheese.

This meal was So Good! It was actually satisfying enough that I would consider it Comfort Food. For the Collard Greens I wouldn't change a Thing. They were garlicky and the lemon and sundried tomatoes in the sausage elevated the whole dish to a fabulous other level. For the lentils, I may just boil those with a chunk of salt pork next time instead of the ham hocks. The reason being I would get more meat out of the salt pork and the cooking liquid would have a milder taste. The lentils are good as they are, but I think the taste of the actual lentils and beans would come through better with the salt pork. It's a thought for next time for sure.