Southern folks love their collard greens. Most people cook theirs all day with some fat back, ham hocks or a smoked turkey leg. And it is not a dish to be messed with. My daddy likes his with a lot of Pepper Sauce. My mother grows her own collard greens and that’s what we eat on New Years Day for the celebratory meal (The more collards you eat, the more money you are supposed to inherit in the New Year so she grows a lot). I love them. I really like their flavor, I love how good they are for you (minus the cooking for hours and pork fat part…) and around this time of year I’m always coming up with a new way to eat them. Yes, I’m Southern and I’m messin’ with tradition but who am I if not a messer? There was Braised Sausages and Collards with Homemade Italian Bread, which is a slow cooked, tomato-based dish peppered with fennel and Cheesy Collards in Custard, which is sort of a baked, creamy crust-less quiche. Yesterday, however, I came up with a new one that is just plain awesome.
I started out thinking I would make the Braised Sausages and Collards but then I realized I wanted to do something a little different. I had a ton of sweet potatoes (because every store has them for $.30-$.50/pound this week and I stocked up!) so that got me thinking of gnocchi. I haven’t made my sweet potato gnocchi* in months, if not a year, so I thought I was due for the hard work. My recipe makes a lot so I always freeze about half of them to use for a dish later in the season. This dish has just about every one of my favorite flavors. It has the sweet potato, the pork, the sage, the balsamic, the brown sugar…if I could have figured out a way to include greek yogurt and champagne in the dish, I would have. And I almost licked the plate.
Whether you decide to lick your plate or behave more like a grown up, just promise me you’ll try this one…Southern or not.
*Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Braised Collard Greens and Sausage
(makes about 6 servings)
|With all the excitement of eating this new dish, I failed to take another photo of the finished plate. So…you’re stuck with this one.|
Begin by starting your sausages and collards, as these take hours to cook…
-In a large stockpot on medium-high heat with a little olive oil, add 1 lb. of fresh Italian sausage, cut into chunks (sweet or hot, your choice. I used sweet ).
-Allow the sausage pieces to brown on one side before touching or moving them. After a minute or so, shake the pan and brown on all sides.
-Season with kosher salt and a small handful of light brown sugar (or maple syrup)
-Once they turn a deep, glisten-y brown, add in 2 bunches of fresh collard greens that you’ve de-ribbed, washed and dried (this should equal about 2-3 lbs total). Pack them into the pot and cover with the lid.
-After about a minute your greens should have begun to shrink down a bit. If they haven’t, put the lid back on and shake the pan a bit. Once you get to the point where you can actually stir them without any falling over the side, toss your greens with the sausage and season well with kosher salt. After all of the leaves have been tossed and are equally seasoned, place the lid back on and cut the heat back to medium. Cook anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on how low you want to turn your burner. But I recommend cooking them until they almost melt. I like crunchy collards, but not for this dish.
-You can cool these down, cover them and refrigerate the pot until you’re ready for assembly if need be.
-For the gnocchi, use my recipe found HERE, although if you’ve made gnocchi before you know you can kind of get a feel for the dough as you’re making it so my recipe can be considered more of a guideline…I actually didn’t look at it when I made these yesterday and they came out beautifully. Go ahead and boil them all and cool on sheet trays lightly covered in some olive oil. You can refrigerate them on the sheet trays, covered with plastic wrap, until assembly time if need be. And to freeze any, freeze on the trays and then transfer to a zip bag.
When you’re ready to eat…
-Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add 4 TB of butter. Allow the butter to melt, bubble and brown. Add in a small handful of fresh, chopped sage leaves. They will pop, so be careful! Toss well. Grate a lot of fresh nutmeg into the sage-brown butter and toss.
-Immediately add a large handful of sweet potato gnocchi per person, (this, for me, was roughly half of my total gnocchi recipe amount) and toss well. Season with a bit more kosher salt and a small handful of light brown sugar. Keep tossing until you see the gnocchi has soaked up the sage-nutmeg-butter.
-Add in your braised sausages and collards and toss to combine. Add a couple pinches of crushed red pepper flakes. Pour in some balsamic vinegar, several splashes or so, and toss again. Taste. More salt? More acid? More sweet? You decide. But what I love about this dish is that it combines all of those things equally.
-Sprinkle another small handful of fresh, chopped sage leaves before serving.
-Serve hot and eat quickly.
(*another sweet potato gnocchi recipe of mine-Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Leeks and Tarragon Cream)