In the fall of 2008, I started a characteristically idiosyncratic food blog. Collard Green was billed as a “vegetarian guide to Southern entertaining” though I often veered into extended celebrations of Ina Garten, my favorite frozen foods, and theme ideas for a my-super-sweet-16-party only your eccentric Aunt Brenda would enjoy attending. I loved writing a food blog because it connected me to readers— from folks I grew up with in southwestern Virginia to Internet strangers all over the world. So I’m really excited that Collard Green has a new home at beagleman’s.
And eight years later, my interests have evolved along with my palate, giving Collard Green a renewed focus. Drawing on my academic research into the narratives and cultures of my home in central Appalachia, I hope to use this space to celebrate Appalachian foodways. I’ll share some classic recipes from my friends, family, and community in Wise County, Virginia while providing a vegetarian spin on traditional dishes.
To celebrate Collard Green’s return, I offer up a menu for my take on a staple from my family’s dinner table. Foodies and cultural critics have taken interest in Appalachian cooking lately; one of my favorite profiles by Jane Black appeared in The Washington Post. But often, folks begin their praise of Appalachian cuisine by noting that the mountains have “so much more to offer than pinto beans and fried potatoes.” That’s certainly true. But what’s wrong with beans and taters?
Not a damn thing.
Below I describe my process for vegetarian slow-cooked soup beans that anchor a hearty dinner. In a twist on an old family recipe, I pair pintos with sautéed collards and sun-dried tomatoes and oven-fried sherry potatoes. And you can’t eat beans and taters without cornbread! I called in my dad—the Coach—for tips on baking a superior pone.
Enjoy! And let us know what you think. Write firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, comments, feedback, and jokes. And check back every Wednesday for more from Collard Green!
Slow-Cooked Soup Beans
16 oz (1 lb) dried pinto beans
6 slices vegetarian bacon
1 tablespoon powdered vegetable broth
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Rinse and remove any foreign material from your beans. My Granny called this “looking your beans.”
Cover beans with 4 cups water and soak overnight (8 hours). Drain and rinse.
Add soaked beans and 4 cups water to crock pot. Add vegetarian bacon, broth, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Stir occasionally. Beans appear plump and tender when done.
(Yields: 10 servings; Read In: 6 hours)
Collard Greens with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 bunch collar greens (6-8 large leaves)
6-8 sun dried tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Usually collards come pre-bundled in most conventional markets, so that’s what I mean by “1 bunch.” Some cooks like to use every part of the green, but especially with collards, I find the thick stalks a bit too tough when cooked. So, after thoroughly washing each leaf, tear the green leafy pieces away from the collard stalks.
Fill an extra large pot about ½ full of water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium. Meanwhile, fill a large mixing bowl about ½ full of cold water and then add 2 cups of ice. Add the collard pieces to the boiling water, using a large spoon to submerge all pieces. After 2-3 minutes, the collards should be bright green. Pour the greens into a colander and quickly transfer to the bath of ice water to stop the cooking.
Next, chop the sun-dried tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the sun dried tomatoes for 3-4 minutes, until they are bright red and begin to caramelize. Drain the ice bath greens in the colander and push as much excess water from the leaves as possible without crushing the collards. Carefully add the collards to sun- dried tomatoes and oil. Add salt and pepper and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes, until all liquid burns away or is absorbed.
(Yields: 4 servings; Ready In: 20-25 minutes)
Oven-Fried Sherry Potatoes
1 pound potatoes scrubbed clean and cut into ¼ inch slices
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
¼ cup dry sherry
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Arrange potatoes in gratin or baking pan, sprinkling salt and pepper over each layer. (I tend to use small confetti [new, red, and purple] potatoes, but any variety works.)
Pour sherry over potatoes. Pour butter over the potatoes. With clean hands, mix so that the potatoes are evenly coated in the sauce.
Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes. The potatoes should be well done, but not mushy and slightly brown on top. Remove from oven and garnish with parsley before serving.
(Yields: 6-8 servings; Ready In: 50 minutes)
The Coach’s Cornbread
1 cup corn meal
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoon canola oil
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and preheat the cast iron skillet, as well.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and mix well with a fork or small whisk.
Remove skillet from oven and grease it thoroughly (I use cooking spray). Fill the skillet (or if you’re using a pre-divided skillet, each “compartment”) about 2/3 full of batter.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until cornbread is golden brown. If you have trouble removing the cornbread, run a knife along the edge of the skillet to coax the bread out.
(Yields: 8 servings; Ready In: 30 minutes)