I recently visited a nearby farmer’s market/CSA and left wanting to try collard greens. Debbie’s Garden and Farmer’s Market is a little confusing because it’s one purveyor offering food from various farms in the area. Debbie’s isn’t organic and sometimes the food isn’t even local but the reason I went was because a friend called to tell me that they had “carrots as big as a baseball bat and a lot of other stuff.” Not that I’m really into carrots, it’s just that he was excited to tell me about a “farmer’s market” near us. When I walked into the ramshackle building I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s one room with shelves and bins arranged around the walls, nearly everything for sale is produce although they also have honey and nuts.
I was looking over the collard greens when Debbie, or a woman similar to Debbie, started telling me how to choose them and how to cook them. I’d never eaten collard greens before, encountering them rarely and assuming they were much like spinach (they are in the same family as cabbage and broccoli). Debbie told me to chop them up, boil them in about and inch and a half of chicken stock, add some crispy bacon and then salt and pepper them. It sounded good to me! But after the collard greens had been in my fridge for two days I realized I was going to need to eat them with something.
Fried chicken came to mind. In my quest to also make fried chicken for the first time, I was concerned about fat content. I didn’t want to make something at home that I could have just bought at KFC. I turned to Cooking Light for help. I will admit, CL doesn’t always have the healthiest options. They still use plenty of butter and cheese and bacon in their recipes. But for revising something as calorie-laden as fried chicken can be, they do a good job. This video recipe claims to “cut calories in half and reduce saturated fat by a whopping 92 percent.” I think the trick to this is to: 1. take the skin off the chicken, 2. use grapeseed oil in a small amount instead of lots of canola oil and 3. don’t use buttermilk for dredging. (Written recipe at the bottom of this post).
I follow the recipe pretty closely except that I’m heavy-handed in spicing the flour for the breading. The first time I made it our chicken was fragrant of pumpkin pie because the spices include ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon (along with paprika and black pepper). We have since adjusted the spices and added some cayenne to the mix. I felt so accomplished arranging that pretty plate of fried chicken, collard greens, and garlic mashed potatoes. (Garlic mashed potatoes are a snap to make with this. Boil potatoes, mash with your preferred amount of butter, salt, milk, and pepper and add two cloves of minced, sauteed garlic– make sure to cook the garlic or no one will love you for days).
In the end, collard greens weren’t my favorite. Sure, they have bacon and chicken stock to make them more friendly, but to me they were more like soggy spinach. I’d like to make them again and try a different preparation. Something tells me this cook might know her stuff when it comes to greens. The chicken is definitely the star of the show in this meal. The meat is moist and flavorful, if a bit greasy. It was so fun to make a meal already so familiar and yet brand new. And even though the greens weren’t my favorite, I learned a whole new set of skills and allowed myself to be inspired. Thank goodness for collard greens.
Cooking Light’s Panfried Lower-fat Chicken (I recommend watching the 3 minute video as well)
Ingredients: 4-6 pieces of chicken (thighs and legs), skin removed, fat trimmed; 1 cup flour; 1 tsp each of paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, black pepper; 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili powder; Kosher salt, ziplock bags, cooling rack; paper bags
1. Combine all spices except the salt with flour in a ziplock bag. Dry each piece of chicken, salt with Kosher salt or fine sea salt (it sticks better and you don’t need as much 1/2-1 tsp) then put it in the bag and shake to coat.
2. Set chicken on a cooling rack on a baking sheet (they want the chicken suspended) and place in the fridge for 90 minutes to let the spices soak in. (The moisture of the chicken is utilized here instead of buttermilk or egg).
3. 15 minutes before starting, take the chicken out and let it warm up to room temp. Re-coat in spices and flour.
4. Heat up 1/4 cup of oil to start (I use medium heat). Oil is ready when a piece of bread dropped in bobs to the surface. Fry chicken in the oil, don’t crowd it, and turn every 5 minutes with tongs.
4. Drain chicken on paper bags (paper towels are too sticky and you’ll lose your breading). Enjoy!