Not including the year when my roommates and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for thirty people (we were living in Australia and decided it was high-time our Aussie friends learned the story of the Pilgrims) – I have never hosted Thanksgiving. Which means I have never had the pressure of cooking the turkey or any of the main-event dishes. Instead, I have always taken a side-dish, one that if it were to go terribly wrong, would go wrong largely unnoticed, amid a sea of other sides.
For anyone who knows me, they know I have a habit of improvising in the kitchen and Thanksgiving is no exception. But taking a classic and making it untraditional is risky business with a holiday that is all about tradition. Last year, not only did I riff on a traditional Thanksgiving dish, I riffed on a traditional southern dish. I have absolutely no business cooking southern food, let alone refashioning it. I am a Northerner and if you really want to get specific – a Canadian, and unless you consider the fact that I am from southern Canada, there is nothing about me that qualifies me to cook southern food. So as I was saying, I took a classic southern dish, in this case collard greens, and dared to make it different …
This is what I did, and I highly recommend you do it too …. in fact I highly recommend you apply the principle of “everything can be made better – or at least different” to all your Thanksgiving cooking.
So collard greens. When they’re not bitter, I love them; when they are I despise them. Here is what I did to make them not bitter, and vegetarian and extraordinarily delicious…
- Wait til after the frost: If you can time it so that a frost occurs before you buy the greens, they will be much less bitter, as the starch in the roots and stem gets converted to sugar when temps drop below freezing. (It’s sort of counter intuitive since we usually think that the early-season growth will be the most tender – but not with fibrous greens like collard, chard and kale.)
- Leave out the ham: The turkey will supply you with all the animal-influence you need.
- Add garlic: Some traditional recipes do have garlic, so it’s not all that radical but I love it.
- Add purple cabbage: This is key and what really “makes” the dish. Cooked cabbage turns sweet and any hint at all of bitterness in the greens is completely eliminated by this side-kick.
- Add apple: It’s just a touch of sweet and primes your palate for the apple pie.
I find the purple cabbage sweeter than green.
And there you have it – a Northerner’s variation on a Southerner’s Thanksgiving classic.
Get the full recipe for Collard Greens With A Twist
Here’s another tip (with full visual “how to”) on eliminating bitterness from ANY green.
Any classic Thanksgiving dishes you’ve tweaked for the better? Or for the worse? Any dishes that are sacrosanct?
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