As a Yankee in the south, I try to fit in as best as possible. Of course my perfect, non-regional, diction usually gives me away. Alas, I am cursed with the ability to complete a sentence without a minute pause in between the noun and verb.
Luckily I really like southern food. Maybe it’s because my Italian family immigrated from Sicily another place where people had to make delicious food from bits of meat and tough vegetables.
When it comes to vegetables I do not normally follow the southern tradition of cooking them to a mush. I prefer squash to still have a bite and for green beans to retain their snap. That is except when it comes to turnip greens. I do prefer them extra overcooked, simmered for more than an hour with a ham hock. My wife on the other hand does not.
Thus has begun my quest to make a healthy dish from turnip or collard greens. I know I can make some sort of gratin or creamed dish that she will love, after all cheese and fat are awesome. Of course before I accomplish this I have to actually cook turnip greens. Yes I had never cooked greens myself before now, relying on the experienced cooks in most dirty dives and diners of the south.
After a bit of research I figured out what to do. After all it is fairly simple as long as you do a couple of steps to prepare the actual greens. The greens turned out better than I expected with an excellent pork flavor without swimming in pools of grease. My wife could not get past the overcooked texture. I have a little thinking to do before the next attempt.
1 smoked ham hock
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 bunch turnip greens
Place ham hock in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then turn down to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile cut the stem and rib from each turnip leaf. The easiest way to do this is take a sharp knife and trace it against the each side of the hard rib running up the leaf about three-quarters of the way.
Once the ribs are removed tear into large pieces and put in large bowl. Cover in cold water and wash. Drain and repeat until all dirt and grit is removed from greens.
After 15 minutes add salt and sugar to water and ham hock and bring back to a boil. Slowly add greens stirring often. Once all the greens are in and wilted turn heat down to a simmer and cook until most broth has evaporated, about 1 ½ hours.
Strain greens into a serving bowl. Reserve the cooking broth that remains in another bowl to dunk cornbread or biscuits in. Remove the ham hock and chop up the meat from the bone and fat. Add to the greens.