The one thing that stays the same around my kitchen, has been a continuous thread, is collard greens.
Collard recipes have been prepared in many incarnations but eventually I rendered them all down the most basic of recipes. I like collards in every fashion imaginable, and while I can spoon potlikker right out of the pot and onto a slab of buttered cornbread, making me perfectly happy, I have grown to like my greens best when they are pot roasted. I used to render bacon, butter or pancetta into the pot first, the fatty crispy strips of cured pork to be fought over at dinner. Then there came a time when I needed to make the greens vegan. I started using peanut oil and ever since it has become a fast favorite which is strange since we are big pork eaters.
What happens to greens when they are pot roasted is the natural sugars break out and much like caramelizing onions you start to build flavors that just don’t exist when collards have been boiled. I liken the building of flavors to a fine cigar, great coffee or a complex wine.
As the thick and leathery fall collards, greens which have taken a frost or two, cook down a toothsome quality develops that is very satisfying to eat. You also get these rogue bits that didn’t get as much oil as they should and they become crispy and blistered which contributes a nice contrast. A sure sign that you have roasted your greens right is the smear of brown juice that paints the bottom of the pot when you stir.
We eat greens cooked like this as part of three dinners each week, at least, and in general Amy and I will fight over the leftovers at breakfast time.
For the fritters:
16 oz. field peas, cooked, either black eyed or you favorite type I used purple hull, two 14 oz. cans, drained works too
1 cup carrots, grated
1/4 cup rice flour, or all purpose flour
2 teaspoons shallots, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
fresh ground pepper
For the collards:
8 to 10 cups collards, cut into 1 inch stirps, rinsed multiple times to get rid of sand and dirt
fresh ground black pepper
For the buttermilk gravy:
1 1/2 cups live culture buttermilk
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon garlic, peeled and minced
1.Heat the oven to 325˚ F. Combine all the gravy ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside to let the flavors build.
2. Place a 6 quart enameled Dutch oven with a lid over medium high heat. Add some peanut oil to the pot being generous with the peanut oil and making sure you coat the bottom of the pan plus a touch more. Add half the greens and season them with a two finger sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Turn the green giving them a hot oil bath. You want the leaves to be coated, not greasy though. Add the rest of the greens. Season them with salt and pepper too. Turn them into the first batch of greens being sure they get an oil coat as well. Put the lid on the pot, slide it into the oven and roast the collards for 1 hour and 15 minutes making sure to stir the pot at the half way point.
3. Place the cooked peas into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to grind the peas. When it becomes mealy add the rest of the fritter ingredients and pulse until smooth, moist and will hold together. The key here is to adjust the moisture content. If it is too wet add rice flour a tablespoon at a time letting the mix rest a bit so the flour can hydrate and thicken the fritter mix. If it is too dry add water by the tablespoon and do the same. My way to test patties of all types is to make a patty and then throw it against the side of the mixing bowl. If it flattens and holds its shape I am happy.
4. Once your consistency is right make 8 equal sized patties. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat, add oil and fry the fritters until they are brown on both sides. Remove them from the pan to a brown bag lined tray. Drain the excess grease. Serve while hot.