Attempting to take a different approach, I took a couple of standby comfort dishes—collard greens, pork chops & macaroni and cheese and approached the recipe in a manner that involved different techniques and ingredients. When making a pot of greens, it is easy to use it as the focus dish and revolve the rest of the meal around those greens.
These recipes are pretty simple but the techniques have been changed to protect the innocent. I have replaced all ingredients with stunt-doubles and I definitely consumed alcohol during this production.
Ingredients for the Collard Greens
- 14 oz. package of triple washed, cleaned and cut Collards or two unwashed bunches cleaned and cut
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 1 large turnip peeled and cut into eighths
- 1 smoked ham hock
- 2 cups roasted chicken stock
- Franks Louisiana Hot sauce (as much as you can stand)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sweat (meaning cook until translucent) mirapoix (carrots, celery, onion) with ham hock and turnip. Add greens, stock and hot sauce. Simmer until tender.
Since the greens will be cooking for a while, make your time count. I had a couple of hours on hand so I decided to smoke some loin chops and locally made sausages. Nothing tastes and smells more like comfort to me than some smoked meat.
I don’t usually recommend smoking loin chops unless you wrap them in peppered bacon and keep them moist with wine, beer or whiskey. Any or all will work. The links and chops smoked with hickory for three hours at 256 degrees turns out well.
Using up some ricotta cheese was the second task I was hoping to accomplish and this take on Mac and Cheese adds some elegance and texture to one of the most replicated dishes in America. A great thing about this version is that it is easy to add other ingredients like chopped, cooked bacon or tomatoes and green onions. Get crazy and have a blast.
Start with heating your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your béchamel sauce. Cook your pasta then drain but do not rinse. Gather up the following and assemble your masterpiece.
Ingredients for the Mac & Cheese
- 12 oz. Ricotta
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups Béchamel Sauce at room temperature
- 1 lb. cooked Farfalle Pasta (any shape you like will work)
- 1 lb. mixed shredded cheese (A Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan blend is my personal favorite)
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce or more if your scoville threshold will allow it
Mix eggs, ricotta, all spices and tobacco sauce in large mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in béchamel sauce and mix in the shredded cheese. Add pasta. Stir well, pour mixture into a large wide baking pan, and bake at 350F until cooked through with an internal temperature at 180F.
The pictures almost do the recipes justice but what really makes this meal rock are the wine pairings. We recently received samples from a prestigious Napa winery V. Sattui.
They only sell their wine at the winery but with the advent of this internet thing and some laws changing that permit wineries to sell direct to consumers, you can have it shipped directly to your house. Try the V. Sattui Zinfandel or Petite Sirah—equally tasty with these dishes. Enjoy!