My Grandma’s Collard Greens

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Happy Fiesta Friday #31, all! I’m super glad to be headed to today’s party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener. I wanted to save this recipe for a Fiesta Friday because it’s not only one of the best things I’ve ever made, but also because it is very, VERY special to me and my family heritage. A few weeks back, I made a full-blown Southern Meal for my family with Triple Dipped Fried Chicken and Hushpuppies on the side- but as delicious as both the chicken and hushpuppies were, they just wouldn’t have been complete as a meal without this dish.My Grandma’s parents were farmers in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. I was too young to be able too be there in their hey-day and see the farm as it was when they weren’t older and infirm, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from my Grandma, Mom and Aunts.

Even though they all lived in Michigan, every summer my Grandpa would take my Grandma and their three daughters down to Mississippi for the summer to visit my Great-Grandparents on their farm. My mom didn’t really like it, for a number of reasons:

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First, she was a self-described “city girl”. My great-grandparents’ farm was literally a on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Because it was the summertime in the Deep South in the mid 70’s, there was (of course) no air conditioning, and the majority of the windows were left open at all hours of the day and night in order to allow the breeze to cool down the house. My mom (having just read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) was convinced that a serial killer was going to break into the house and murder everyone and tells me that she used to walk around the house, checking and re-checking doors and windows for intruders.

Second, my mom couldn’t get into the whole ‘ farm experience’. My great-grandpa’s enormous hunting dogs on the porch frightened her by running up to the car and surrounding it every time they drove up to the house. Apparently the chickens were demon possessed and chased her around everywhere. Plus, a lot of the food that got served on the table at my great-grandparents’ house came from the farm itself- including the meat. My mom had a hard time eating the chicken that she saw get shot, decapitated, plucked, and butchered just a few hours ago.

One thing she consistently talks about, are the big ‘Meetins’ that they all used to attend. For those who aren’t Southern or aren’t familiar with the Baptist tradition, the big ‘Meetins’ (you have to say it just like that, no ‘g’s allowed) consisted of large gatherings of the local Churches where they would all hold one, long service that LITERALLY lasted all day long, then conclude with a pot-luck style feast composed of all the dishes that each of the women would make before hand and bring to share.

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At any true Southern church meetin, you’re guaranteed to find a pot of greens. They’re almost like a symbol of the South itself. When you eat them, you can practically taste all the history and soul that they come from with every bite.

My Grandma’s greens are the thing of legend. Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, and (my personal favorite) Cabbage Greens. She does them all, and she does them all perfectly. I’ve said it before on the blog, and I’m gonna say it again: her greens would be on the menu of foods I would have to eat if I was on Death Row and given a last meal to eat. Give me a big bowl of greens and two hunks of her cornbread, and I don’t even need meat. They’re really that good.

The greens that she makes for the family come straight out of her backyard garden, but I’ve also made this recipe with greens that I’ve bought at grocery stores and farmer’s markets- however, if you know someone who grows greens or can get to a farmer’s market, then I do strongly recommend that you get them that way. The quality of homegrown greens is so much better than the ones you get in the stores.

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My grandma usually uses whole ham hocks to flavor her greens, but because I know that not everyone can get their hands on those (and because depending on where you live, they can get pretty pricey), I adapted this recipe so that it’s do-able for just about anywhere using regular bacon (note: you CAN also use turkey bacon, or even smoked turkey instead of the pork). This recipe is also one where you’re going to have to use your personal taste-testing skills to judge how much or how little seasoning you add. I judge what to add or not add by tasting the liquid given off by the greens after they’ve been cooking half-way through or so (we call that stuff the Pot Likker in the South, and it’s friggin awesome). When they’re done, i do have to emphasize that cornbread with greens is a must- one hunk for dipping in the pot likker, and another hunk for crumbling over the greens themselves.Oh, and if you have access to some zesty, jarred Southern Cha Cha (some people call it Chow Chow), then you need to sprinkle some of that on top too. It’ll send your bowl of greens and cornbread over the edge and into the galaxies of awesomeness.

 I’ve got this down to a science, can’t you tell?

Try this dish, guys. I don’t care if you have so-called ‘picky eaters’ in your house- I was one of those people growing up too. And I STILL couldn’t get enough of these greens.

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My Grandma’s Collard Greens

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 bunches of collard greens, washed, stems removed, and sliced into about 1/2 inch thick strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 16 oz. thick cut bacon
  • Onion powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • About 1 1/2—2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange bacon on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. (The bacon is not supposed to be crispy– it’s okay if it’s still a little floppy or limp.)

2. Remove bacon from tray and roughly chop into lardons, or large chunks. Set aside.

3. Drain the remaining drippings and grease from the sheet pan into a bowl and set aside.

4. Place the greens in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken broth, onion and bacon and mix together. Season the greens with onion powder, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover and allow to cook until greens are tender and wilted, about 35-45minutres, depending on how tender or firm you like them. Make sure the liquid doesn’t get absorbed, or they’ll scorch!

6. Taste the juice the greens are cooking in and adjust for seasoning.

Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

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There are a select few places in my hometown to go if you want to get good fried chicken.

I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes when I say this, but Kentucky Fried Chicken does not happen to be one of them. While I personally don’t think that their chicken is nasty per se, I don’t feel like it’s as good as it used to be in the early 90’s. Ever since KFC tried to ‘keep up’ with the other fast food chains and their ever evolving and growing menus and adding a bunch of other extraneous stuff, I feel like their chicken has suffered in quality. I understand that businesses want to keep up with the Joneses. However, when you’re good at one particular thing, sometimes you just need to stay in your lane, you know what I mean?

When I was a freshman in high school, my city got our first and only Popeyes Chicken- and you would have thought that the Pope had come to town. For two solid weeks, that place was absolutely packed to the max, with the line for the drive through going clear down the street. Not that it was unjustified- Popeyes chicken is  a major step up from KFC in terms of quality in general, and their biscuits are to die for. However, that furor died down and these days, while the chicken is still usually pretty good, there are some days that are largely hit and miss.

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There used to be two Ponderosas in my city as well, and while I’m not a huge fan of buffet food, I will say that their chicken wings/drumsticks were very delicious.However, they’ve both closed now so that point is kind of irrelevant at this point.

 We have a business down the street from my house that serves up chicken, gizzards and standard Southern sides. The food is pretty decent, however I was put off the last time that I went there this past winter and saw that the owner was so cheap that he didn’t turn the heat on and the employees were working in their coats just to stay warm. Not only does that strike me as unsanitary, but I was appalled at the idea of an owner that would force his employees to work in those conditions. Haven’t been back since, suffice to say.

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As decent as those other places are, everyone in my city knows that the best place to get fried chicken, is (rather ironically) a fish market. Inside, it’s a room of glass display cases filled with various fish to buy whole and fresh. In addition to the fish, they also for some reason have a whole array of Southern style food that they make to order in the back. The place is kinda small. And being a fish market, it stinks. However, it does serve the best chicken you’re going to get in the city. It’s so good, that nobody even calls it by it’s true name. It’s gained a catchy little nickname over the years instead: “Crack Chicken”.

Yep. I’m not kidding.

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Maybe I should have added a caveat to the beginning of this post: there a select few places to go in my city to get good  fried chicken if you’re going out to eat. If you want the best fried chicken period- well, not to blow my own horn or anything but…then you need to come to my house.

I make really, really REALLY good fried chicken, guys. It’s just the truth. I’m not a fan of how messy and greasy it can get sometimes, and it did take me a while to learn, but once I did, I really hit my stride.

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Good things come in 3’s, right? I don’t know anyone that would disagree with that when it comes to triple dipped fried chicken.The skin is the best part; the crispier the better. So with a triple dip, you better believe this chicken is the real deal when it comes to the crunch. I made this chicken for my family as part of an authentic Southern meal alongside these Hushpuppies. It was a hit. But c’mon: triple-dipped fried chicken? How can you go wrong there?

I’m taking these to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #30, party this week, co-hosted by Margy @La Petite Casserole . Hope to see you all there 😉

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Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups beer or water
  • 1 quart of vegetable oil, for frying
  • 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces

Directions

1. In one medium bowl, mix together 3 cups of flour, garlic salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, smoked paprika and poultry seasoning.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups flour, salt,1/4 teaspoon of pepper, egg yolks and beer. You may need to thin with additional beer if the batter is took thick.

3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 350°.Moisten each piece of chicken with a little water, then dip in the dry mix. Shake off excess and dip in the wet mix, then dip in the dry mix once more.

4. Carefully place chicken pieces in the hot oil. Fry for 15 t0 18 minutes, or until well browned. Smaller pieces will not take as long. Large pieces may take longer. Remove and drain on paper towels before serving.

 

Hushpuppies

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Guys, guess what?

I just got a new computer. After four years, my old Acer finally had to buy the farm. See what had happened was, the power cord jack has been increasingly wearing out to the point where the cord couldn’t stay inside of it by itself.Because new laptops are expensive (and because I’m cheap) I put up with it for a while, just not plugging it in until I needed to, then being sure not to move the laptop too much (or so much as a inch at times). It was super annoying, but I still roughed it out.

But last week, I had myself a little scare. I needed to charge my laptop, so I plugged it in….and nothing happened. It didn’t pick up the signal from the wall charger. And my battery was running low.

Did I mention that all of my photos, documents, programs from the last five years are stored on my Acer laptop? No? They definitely are.

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So yeah, that resulted in a mini freak out on my part where I frantically plugged, unplugged, re-plugged, and re-unplugged my laptop- all while softly muttering prayers to Jesus that if he let my computer charge just one more time, I would promise  to finally stop being such a cheap skate and just get another one. I also may have swore to go serve in a leper colony somewhere for the rest of my life.

(Yes, I know that even if the computer had went dead, I’d be able to take it somewhere to recover the files off my hard drive. I’m not a complete idiot- I was just having a complete melt down and wasn’t thinking straight. Plus, weren’t you listening? I’m a cheapskate. Paying for a new computer AND paying someone to recover the files off my old laptop to transfer to the new one? Ain’t nobody got for that.)

Well, I don’t know which one those promises to Jesus did the trick, but the signal finally did connect between my old Acer and the charger. Crisis averted-temporarily anyway. Now I had to keep  my promise and buy a new laptop. (I’m choosing to assume that He knows my promise about the lepers was just Jessica being His usual, crazy, overeaacting Jessica. He knows I’d be useless in a leper colony, anyway)

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 I got my new laptop a couple of days later, and it’s pretty awesome. All my other laptops have been ‘economic’ purchases, where I bought something that would suit my purposes, but wasn’t the ‘one’ I wanted.

This HP ENVY x360- 15 Touch laptop, is definitely what I want. It’s not only beautiful, it also came with as much space as I could get on a laptop without being a desktop computer. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new laptop… and isn’t a Mac fan. Because I’m not. #TeamPC til the day I die.

Anyway, moving onto the food. I decided to put a real Southern meal on my family’s table and this was one of the things I made to go on the side with the rest of the food (other recipes from that meal to follow).

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Why are these things called hushpuppies? Do we have something against just calling them what they are (cornmeal fritters)? I was curious, so I did some research (meaning I just googled it) and found out that they get their name from the Civil War Era, where they were thrown to hunting dogs to keep them from scaring prey away, or at picnics/cookouts to make them  ‘hush’. True? Maybe, maybe not- but all I know is that just bout everyone seems to love them.

Hushpuppies are a staple of classic Southern food- they’ve got to be done right, and these don’t disappoint. The exterior is perfectly browned and crisp, with the inside soft and tender. I eat mine several different ways: doused in Frank’s Red Hot, crumbled over my greens, or even dipped in ketchup (it’s good, trust me).

These are an excellent side dish- or you could just eat them all on their own. I wouldn’t judge you.

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Hushpuppies

Recipe Courtesy of Pat and Gina Neely

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • Peanut oil, for frying
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup self rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely grated
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, optional

Directions

1. Preheat 2 inches peanut oil in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven to 375. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, 1 teaspoon salt, the sugar, cayenne and paprika in a large bowl to get rid of the lumps.

2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine.

3. Dip 2 spoons into a mug of water (this allows the batter to come clean off). Scoop up about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the batter and carefully slide it into the hot oil, working in batches. Fry the scoops of batter 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked all the way through (test the first one for doneness).

4. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet, seasoning with salt as they come out of the fryer.

Southern Smothered Potatoes and Onions

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Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin today’s post by saying a few things that I love about the South (for my international friends, that’s the Southern USA).

First and foremost, Atlanta is in the South. Atlanta is one of my all time favorite places to go in the entire country. It’s a city full of energy, soul and entertainment. There’s nothing you can do, find or try in Atlanta (except for build a snowman, I’m pretty sure that won’t work.) Every time I visit Atlanta, I always realize how dull and unspectacular my own hometown is and I’m always sad when I have to come back up North to boring old Michigan. If I had a choice of where to live, Atlanta would be at the top of my list for sure.

Although some of us have migrated north, both of my parent’s families are from the South. So I’m a Northern girl with Southern roots. Maybe that’s why I always get sad when I leave Georgia…

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Three words, guys:

The.Waffle. House. We don’t have them in Michigan. This is simply unacceptable to me. Once you pass  over the old Mason Dixon Line, I swear there’s a Waffle House every two miles on the highway. They’re literally everywhere. True story: I didn’t used to like waffles very much. As a little kid, I had eaten more than my fair share of the cardboard-like, tasteless Eggo ‘waffles’ drowned in syrup to make them somewhat edible. I don’t know exactly why I did, maybe it was just apart of the 90’s Kid Rites of Passage. Anyway, it was traumatizing enough to put me off of waffles for years in lieu of My One True Love (pancakes). The one year, I was visiting my Aunt who lives near Atlanta, and she suggested that we go out for breakfast to a Waffle House so that we could try one of their “special recipe” waffles. I was skeptical. It was ‘just’ a waffle, right? How ‘special’ could it be, right?

That was what I thought then. Now? Well, now, I’m pretty convinced that the Waffle House “special recipe” for their waffles is injected with some kind of drugs. That’s the only way I can explain waffles being that friggin delicious and leave me always wanting more.

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Additional pluses for the South in my book: Disney World, Miami Beach, no snow storms that cause city-wide power outages over the holidays (see this post), amazing scenery, older AND younger men calling me “Ma’am” or “Darlin”, women calling me “Honey”.

Then there’s the accents. Random fact: if I spend a certain amount of time in the South, I will begin to pick up a Southern accent of my own. I  know it sounds weird, but I mean it. Before long, I’ll be dropping my ‘g’s and developing a drawl/twang and the whole she-bang. Again, that could just be my Southern roots calling me ‘home’.

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Then of course, there’s the food. Southern Cuisine has to be my favorite regional food to both eat and cook. There’s a reason why it’s called Soul Food, guys: you can literally taste the heart, soul and love that goes into it.

And in case you all didn’t know, in the South heart, soul and love usually translates into the 3 B’s: Bacon, Butter and Booze- not necessarily in that order. Personally, I don’t really consume much of these 3 ingredients on their own. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, I don’t like the taste of it, and it gives me a stomach ache- but will I still marinate a pork roast in whiskey? Oh yeah. Usually I try to sub out butter for healthier options when trying to sautee or flavor a dish, but there are some instances where nothing but butter will do, like when making pound cake and pie crust. Then I’m the Butter Queen.

Please don’t slaughter me when I say this: but I can really live without eating bacon on it’s own. Don’t get wrong: the smell is fantastic, but I can do without actually eating the finished product, regardless of whether it’s chewy or crisp. On the other hand; to me, bacon grease (the liquid stuff that gets leftover in the pan or skillet) may as well be the Nectar of the Gods. It’s everything. Everything that matters when cooking.

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One of the oldest, most priceless cooking tips that I learned from my true blue, Deep South, Mississippi born and bred grandma was this: save.your.grease.

Bacon grease. Chicken grease. Fish grease. After you’re finished cooking the proteins, don’t just throw it out. That’s bad. Strain it through a fine sieve to get out the bits, then pour it into mason jars and give them their own label. I’m serious. I know, it may sound weird (and maybe even a little nasty), but  trust and believe: you will thank me for this later. I watched my grandma do this for years without fully understanding why it was so valuable- then I started cooking for myself, and found out that she was a genius.

Drained grease (especially pork grease) does something for food that no ordinary, ground seasoning can even come close to. It’s…it’s almost like pure magic, guys. This dish completely proves my point. It originally started as a dish that we made up in my house for when my church was doing a fast that was kinda similar to the month of Catholic Lent, except we did ours during the month of January and the beginning of February. Usually, we just did things like give up eating solid meat, bread or sweets- nothing too serious, it’s more of the idea that counts in these cases. Anyway, my mom and my grandma made this dish quite a few times during the fast, as it’s a meal that’s delicious and satisfying enough to where you don’t even miss the meat at all.

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Now, I’ll be honest with you all: I was very light handed when it came to putting together this recipe because it’s just one of those things that I put together and season to personal taste. I’m very liberal when it comes to my seasonings, but I can admit that not everyone is like me, and as such, may have a completely different palate. So when it came to seasoning, what I did was give you all the ingredients that I put in the dish, then let you decide how much of it you want to add. As far as Garlic and Onion powder are concerned my advice would be to not be shy: it’s hard to add too much of those, so I usually add a liberal coating over the potatoes and onions, stir, then add another liberal coating and stir again. With salt and pepper, you’ll need to be more careful, as it’s much easier to over salt or over pepper a dish. Butter Buds are basically dried, powdered Butter flakes that make potatoes basically irresistible. It’s also a healthier alternative to using straight butter. They can be found in the spice aisle of grocery stores, and really are worth the buy if you can find them in your area.

 After they’re done cooking, the potatoes become tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, forming that delectable crust that reminds me of hash browns. The nearly caramelized onions should be limp and they really provide the perfect, slightly sweet complement to the saltiness of the potato. And to top it all off, there is a slight aftertaste of bacon thanks to the potatoes and onions being cooked in the liquid bacon grease.

You guys, this food is the South on a plate. It really speaks to my heritage and style of cooking, and just tastes phenomenal.

I decided to bring this to the Fiesta Friday party this week, hosted this week by Elaine@Foodbod and Julianna@Foodie On Board. Hope you guys like this little taste of the South 🙂

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Southern Smothered Potatoes & Onions

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup liquid bacon grease
  • 4 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Butter Buds, to taste

 Directions

1. Heat a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium high heat.

2. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of the bacon grease into the pan, swirl about to evenly cover the surface.

3. Add enough potatoes and onions to pan to fill up. (You will have to do this in multiple batches).Sprinkle a generous coating of the onion powder, garlic powder, and butter buds over the potatoes and onions. Stir to evenly coat, then add a little bit more if necessary.

4. Add the salt and pepper to the potatoes and onions (be a little less generous with these, I typically do about 1 tsp of each per batch).

5. Cover the pan and allow to cook until potatoes are brown, tender and slightly crisp at the edges, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom of the skillet.

6. Repeat steps 2-6 in batches with the remaining potatoes and onions and serve.