Collard Greens, Leeks and Bacon

I have had the great fortune to be able to travel to the Southern US on a number of occasions, and it really is good fortune to go there.  Like most places in the States I have traveled I have been met with very pleasant and entertaining people and also polite.  Yes sir, yes ma'am and "uh-huh" for "you're welcome" are heard often and genuine in the usage, I do love the "uh-huh" however, kind of like the "de nada" in Mexico or the "no prob" heard in other parts of the continent.

While I am traveling I like to eat whatever the locals eat, but I do have my limits. If it is considered a rodent in polite societies, I will not eat it (guinea pig in Cuba comes to mind). Reptiles, offal (it's awful you know), excretory or reproductive parts of any being, things that don't have a skeleton (exo or endo are okay sometimes), pets, and weird vegetables. Weird vegetables is an entirely subjective assessment on my part and it is a very fluid assessment, what is okay today may not be okay tomorrow.

Other things that are not categorized above that fall into my do not eat list are many mushy things.  Poi is a great example. I had poi in Hawaii at a family luau I was invited to and while enjoying the company of the Lum family I was offered up some poi, and never having had it before and also my "do not eat" list was at that time incomplete, I eagerly shoveled it into my mouth. That was a very bad thing to do it turned out. You see, when my brain realized my body had been violated by a mushy substance that is poi, it registered an alarm with my swallower. My swallower went into neutral then right into reverse. Since the luau was being hosted in the back yard of the Lum familys home I had nowhere to run and hide to rid myself of the mushy invader and since decorum and good raising prevented me from spewing that awful shit all over the other diners I forced it down and then went into a catatonic like state for the duration of the meal. Being able to override my swalllower has proved a useful, if not mentally damaging ability in subsequent years; the catatonic-like state? Less so.

Other awful mushy things have been offered and disliked are congee served to me in Chinese and Japanese restaurants, a fish slurry in Mexico that was simply fucking awful and then there was grits. A Southern US staple and one that has me continuing to question the culinary sanity of Southerners. Grits is mushy. Grits is mushy with some lumps in them sometimes. Grits is pervasive. Grits is yucky.

Grits reminded me of cream of wheat that as a young'un dear old ma would make and serve us kids and it went okay until a lump was discovered by my brain while trying to force that mushy stuff down my gullet. No amount of sugar and cream can hide a lump of yuckiness that is hiding in the cream of wheat and when thus discovered, the brain rebels and tells the other parts of the body to stop eating RIGHT FUCKING NOW! Turns out grits has the same effect on my swallower as cream of wheat. Grits put the brain into 5 alarm panic mode which then sends the swallower into a defensive posture that has no happy ending for anyone within close proximity. This I know to be true.

These same wonderful, polite and genuinely nice Southern people, the grit eaters, are the same ones that are shocked when we Canucks put gravy on our french fries! I can only imagine what they would do down there if someone served up a batch of poutine! Yes Virginia, the world has gone mad and grits are eaten willingly by some...

So I avoid grits like a plague but in places like Georgia, Alabama, Texas and even my favourite state, Oklahoma grits are lurking everywhere. So one has to be vigilant to ensure someone, well meaning they may be, does not sneak them onto ones plate and cause and international gustatory rebellion incident. Other things that I find odd down there is so many vegetables end up being coated and deep fried, or cooked to death, beyond recognition, like the vegetable is being punished for some transgression. Okra is a great veggie and they deep fry it and I thought that was just plain sick, but after some persuasion by others I tried it, and like Mikey, I liked it. The boiled to death veggies? Not so much.

I can't remember where I was when I first tried collard greens, but regardless of where it was, I did not like them. They were like horribly overcooked spinach and verged dangerously on being a mushy-stuff item, so I passed after one bite.  It was at lunch in Atlanta while driving my motor-home back from Florida a number of years ago that I ended up with collard greens on my plate and they weren't mushy, nor yucky. They were fantastic. And they had bacon in them! Now, what dish is not made better with added bacon I ask you? I had them again further along the line and enjoyed them again, and then I forgot all about them until this week. Collard greens are not something I remember seeing in the local markets produce section before, but while shopping for something different to go along with the grilled rack of lamb I had been planning for a special dinner, I spotted collard greens on the shelf so I bought a couple of large bunches and headed for my kitchen.

Once home with the vittles I pondered what to do with the collard greens and then went surfing on the internet and came across a recipe that I tailored to my liking and ended up with something I will be making again, and again.  Everyone at the table liked them with the exception of my daughter Kaitlyn, who loudly opined, “These are awful!" When asked why she thought they were awful, she said they tasted "too much like outdoors", I think she thought they tasted earthy perhaps, but she insisted they taste like outdoors and then did not eat any more of them. The rest of us yummed them up. By the look on her face I am thinking she was thinking the collard greens were beyond fucking awful. They are now on her personal "do not eat" list I am sure. I have had some nasty and unmentionable stuff in my mouth through the last 5 decades and some of it was indeed ingested outdoors, but I don't recall any of it tasting like collard greens. But I don't argue with her, I don't have enough time left in my life to take that challenge on....

2 bunches collard greens, washed, and stem removed, cut into 1” julienne

3 leeks, cut in half lengthwise, then ¼” slices across

1 medium shallot, minced fine

2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 slices bacon, minced
2 cups chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the stems out of each washed leaf.

Roll the leaves into a chifffonade (rolled up) then cut across into 1” slices. 

Cut the top and bottom off the leeks leaving about 1 ½” of green at the top. Cut the leek in half then across the length. 

Place chopped leek into a bowl of cold water to clean. Drain into colander then rinse under running water to remove any remaining grit. Drain in colander, set aside.

Add bacon to large pot over medium heat and fry until crisp. 

Remove the bacon and set aside. 

Place the leeks, garlic and shallots to hot bacon fat and sauté until just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. 

Add the greens and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and cover with lid. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove lid and continue to cook for 5 minute longer.

Remove from pot with slotted spoon or tongs and place in serving bowl.  Add the cooked bacon and toss well. Serve hot.

Snowy Palms Resort