I joke a lot here and around the interwebs about my distain for escarole. I’ll clarify that, as an adult, I’m actually fine with escarole. But as a child I hated it. It was the one food that I absolutely could not eat, the only thing I couldn’t stomach. Until I became a vegetarian, and then there were lots of things I couldn’t stomach (including meatloaf). I read somewhere once that kids have something like twice as many tastebuds as adults, and therefore taste everything twice as intensely,which is why children often have catastrophic aversions to certain foods.
The point of this story is that my mom’s lucky New Year’s day dish was lentil soup and escarole. Gag. Which is why I always preferred my dad’s lucky foods, collard greens and black eyed peas. On New Year’s Day, greens (whether they be spinach, escarole, collards, chard, etc) are served to bring prosperity. The greens are traditionally cooked with ham, because pork symbolizes progress. Other common foods for ringing in the New Year are beans (prosperity), fish (good luck), and anything circular, like cakes (the year comes full circle).
This year I opted for fish and collards, skipping the ham hocks and beans because after a few batches of bean soup, I’ve been kind of beaned out lately. And when it comes cuts of the pig, I’m not the biggest ham fan (I prefer the shoulder). Collards cooked without ham are cooked essentially the same way, just pan roasted with water or stock, served with garlic and onions. Because collards are a tough green pan roasting is the ideal way to cook them, low and slow for 45 minutes to an hour allows them to soften and develop flavor.
Instead of resolutions this year I’ve written my “culinary life list.” Right now it’s 100 things, but it may grow. It’s a list of things, all food related, that I’d like to accomplish before I kick the bucket. Do you have a life list, culinary or not? What’s on it?
3-4 large collard leaves
1/2 white onion
2 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper
Red pepper flakes
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups mushroom broth (or vegetable stock)
3 tbsp butter
In a medium size pan, melt butter. Mince garlic and chop the onion, and saute both in butter until soft. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and red pepper. Chop the collards into 1/2″ strips.
Add the collards a handful at a time, wilting them before you add more. Use tongs to toss the greens with the butter and onions. Add broth, cover. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes to an hour.
Uncover and allow the broth to reduce. Serve and enjoy a year of prosperity!