Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Collard Greens from Paleo Comfort Foods

In a few weeks, I'm going to be having a paleo "Thanksgiving" for friends and have been thinking about what side dishes I might make.  While at Spouts recently, they had some really pretty collard greens and I decided it was high time for me to try the Collard Greens recipe from Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen by Julie and Charles Mayfield.

Those greens look so good and fresh!

After gathering my ingredients, I prepped the vegetables, starting with slicing an onion.

Next, I prepped the greens.  I stripped the greens from their stems and washed/spinned them in two batches.  Once the greens were clean, I stacked some the greens and rolled them up into a little collard green cigar.  

I then sliced the rolled greens into strips.  I ended up with 4 batches/rolls of collards to slice.  

While working on the greens, I added my bacon, cut into smaller pieces, into my 12 quart stainless stock pot over medium high heat.  Paleo Comfort Foods doesn't give any suggested stove top temperatures.  When it was crispy, I transferred the bacon to a paper towel.  

I then added the minced garlic and sliced onions.  The recipe says to cook the onions until translucent.  I never think my onions really look translucent, so I generally just cook them until they have softened.  I found this video that shows what translucent onions are supposed to look like, but I still don't think my onions ever look that way.  

Once the onions had softened, I added the collard greens by the handful and stirred them in with the onions and garlic.  Once all of the collards were in the pan, I cooked them until they had reduced to half their original size.  This doesn't take long, so keep stirring and watch your pot.  I then added the water to the greens.  

Next, it was time to add a smoked ham hock.  While at the grocery store, they did not have a ham hock  of any kind, but they did have smoked ham shanks.  I quickly used my phone to search the internet while in the store and found enough that I felt comfortable that a smoked ham shank would work.  When I got home, I did a little more extensive searching.  It appears the difference between the ham shanks and hock are which leg of a hog they come from.  This site says that a ham hock is the lower hind leg of a hog and provides some substitutions.  Ham shanks aren't listed as a substitution here but the list may be helpful if you can't find either a smoked ham hock or a shank.  

This site is a bulletin board posting about substituting shanks for a hock and one poster says that the shank is from the fore leg of a hog and the hock is from the rear.  The National Pork Board says seems to contradict itself.  It first says that both the hock and the shank from from the fore leg of a hog but then says the ham hock is different and comes from the lower rear leg of a hog.  Whichever leg the smoked ham shanks I bought come from,  I felt fairly confident that they would give me the flavor that Paleo Comfort Foods was after with the smoked ham hock.  

The next question was how much ham shank to use in place of a ham hock.  I tried to ask Paleo Comfort foods by way of twitter and facebook about this substitution and any suggested amount and I didn't get a response.  I found this company that sells ham hocks online and theirs weight and it seems that a ham hock weighs anywhere from 1.5 to 2.0 pounds.  

The package of shanks I bought was just under 1 pound, so I used the entire package.  

I brought the pot to the boil, turned down the heat and let it simmer for 35 minutes.

A nice steamy pot.

After my timer went off, here is what I had.

Needs a little salt.

Much better with bacon!

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients: You should be able to find everything you need for this recipe easily and fairly inexpensively at your "big box" grocery store with the exception of maybe the ham hock.  The ham shanks I ended up using were $2.99/pound.  Since I needed the ham shanks/hocks for the recipe and there was really only one option, I honestly didn't look at their ingredients before I purchased them or made the recipe.  Shame on me.  Squinting at the package, at a minimum, there are some nitrates in there, but I don't know if I need to worry about those really.  

Preparation & Cooking Time:  The Paleo Comfort Foods cookbook does not have stated preparation times.  It took me 18 minutes to prep this recipe to boil/simmer.  Though I had the heat on my burner on high, it took 17 minutes to bring the full pot to a boil which seemed like a long time to me.  I then let the pot simmer for 35 minutes.  My total preparation cooking time was 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Clean up:  The clean up for this recipe was easy.  My stainless steel stock pot can go into the dishwasher.  The remainder of my utensils except my wooden spoon, went into the dishwasher.  

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  These are the best collard greens I have ever had.  They had a smoky full flavor.  I know some collard green recipes use vinegar, this one does not but I could swear I tasted a little vinegar flavor in there.  The greens were very tender, but certainly not mushy.  I tried some with and without bacon.  Without the bacon I felt like they needed a little salt.  Of course with bacon, you get the saltiness that boosts the smokiness that was added by the ham hock/shank.  Thankfully, I didn't have any of the sulfur smell that Paleo Comfort Foods warns about.  

I will definitely make this recipe again and if you haven't tried it yet, you should!