Southern Mac and Collards

Good day Crocks,

Last night I had a trial run of some dishes for my upcoming guest chef night at Elliot Borough Mini Bar. I am super nervous because number 1: I am no chef. The people who have participated in this in the past are all cooks from restaurants which is extremely intimating. Number 2: I am a…crocker? which is different because the bad boy does all the work, I’m just there to throw it all in. Number 3: I relate more to a writer who strictly writes about food and now here I am on the other end. So, yes nervous, but also thrilled about the opportunity and wouldn’t want to cook at any other establishment! So the rules of last night: You couldn’t say a dish was ‘good’. I needed some real feedback with describing words and solutions to what the dishes needed. Here’s how it went:

                                                 Crockpot Mac and Cheese

IMG_0018Ingredients
-Medium HT Traders shell pasta
-1 stick of butter, melted
-2 eggs, beaten
-4 cups of cheese: American, Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyère
-1 can evaporated milk
-1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
-1 cup 2% milk
-Salt and Pepper to taste
Yields 6-7 servings
Cook pasta according to package. Transfer to crockpot and stir in melted butter.IMG_0022 In a separate large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, evaporated milk, cheese soup, and milk.IMG_0020 Pour mixture over macaroni in crockpot and cook on low for 3 hours.IMG_0023IMG_0028

(Original recipe calls for only putting the first 3 cups of cheese in crockpot and then adding the last cup at the very end just on top and sprinkling with paprika.) So my personal assessment, I wish the macaroni kept some of the creamy consistency it started with. If you look at the last two pictures, picture one is before the mixture cooked for three hours and it was very soupy. Picture two, the macaroni soaked up most of the liquid and the cheese separated a bit. However, Jayman and Raymond both agreed that they preferred this texture better. I believe Ray even stated, “This is more of a high end macaroni dish”. Katie had me add more salt and pepper which I agreed it needed and then Louise had a good recommendation, she wanted more sharpness. The cheeses cooked together to create a smooth taste and she wanted more of a bite from some sharp cheddar. And sweet Cath said her palate was too immature to know what we were talking about and she just really liked it. Thanks Cath I love you. Moving on to the collards.

                                                    Crockpot Collard Greens

Ingredients
-1 ham hock, 2lbs
-Collards 4.5lbs=~3bunches
-2 tablespoons Olive oil
-1 yellow onion, medium diced
-3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
-1 cup chicken broth -1 tablespoon cider vinegar
-1 tablespoon granulated sugar
-salt and pepper
-Red pepper flakes
Yields 6-7 servings IMG_0004 IMG_0002 Place dat ham hock in the middle of the crockpot and well come back to it. Side note, ham hocks are awesome. I’ve been somewhat naïve of them as I marched straight up to the butcher asking for one and he had to redirect me to the prepackaged section. They add so much flavor and make me feel like I’m a Southern grandma cooking for my family of 10 on a Sunday with the dogs barking on the front porch. IMG_0006Thoroughly run collards under warm water in the sink to make sure all dirt and grit washes off, dry them, and set aside.

Next, heat olive oil in a large pot on the stove top. Once collards are dry, use your hands to remove collard leaves from stems and throw stems away. Allow plenty of time for this process because separating through 5 pounds of collards mimics paddling upstream in a kayak. I was going strong, but wasn’t making a dent and couldn’t see the dock. Worst part, my olive oil was burning! During this time I thought of Mama Connie and how she always had collards simmering on her stove top. I respect you so much more Mama Connie for all those long hours you did in the kitchen! Tip: Prepare the collards first and then heat your olive oil. Once olive oil is hot, add in the onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until onions are clear. Next add in chicken broth and increase heat to bring mixture to a boil. I used chicken stock I had saved from a  previous crockpot meal. Remember to always save the juice!IMG_0008 IMG_0010 Stir in collards a handful at a time, adding more as they wilt. I made the mistake of using too small a pot so I had to transfer some collards out to the crockpot prematurely to make more room. So again, make sure you use a very large pot. Also, I noticed the bottom of the pan was burning a bit and I wanted more stock to pour in, but had used it all. I had to substitute some white wine in its place just to give the pan more juice. Once all collards are in the pot, turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, the sugar, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes (your preference on measurement depending on desired spicy level).IMG_0012 Transfer all to the crockpot and cook on low for 3 hours, until the greens are very tender.IMG_0013 IMG_0015 After doing some errands and coming in the back kitchen door after a run, I knew something was right. The kitchen smelled like the Terrill’s kitchen. I’ll always think of that kitchen of home to the best Southern dishes and casseroles I’ve ever had. I loved eating dinner over there growing up because I was a deprived Southern child growing up with two Yankee parents who did not cook things like pineapple casserole or green bean casserole. (Mom, Dad-just kidding, just making the story more intense.) As I lifted the lid and lowered my face into the pot, Southern Sunday scents of a home cooked meal swirled in my nostrils and my mouth began to water. The last step is to take out the ham hock and cut it into bite-sized pieces and then stir it back into the greens. Now for the taste test.IMG_0026I wasn’t sure if the collards needed more sugar. Jay said it just needed a little more salt so I let him do the honors. Ray said he is used to collards being drenched in vinegar to the point where he can only eat a certain helping. He said he could eat these for days so they might need some more vinegar. Jay quickly opposed this idea so I went with Jay, sorry Ray, but I do appreciate your input. Louise and Katie said the collards didn’t need anything, and sweet Cath was happy. At the end of the day everyone is going to like their collards somewhat differently and I had to focus more so on whether or not they had a good base because you know I’M ALL ABOUT THAT BASS ‘BOUT THAT BASS. IMG_0030(Not pictured: Jayman and Susu) Thanks for coming out and testing frands and thank you to Katie for making some dank BBQ chicken, to Cath and Weez for the wine, and to Raymond for the ice cream sandwiches and snickers. I’ll let y’all know how the big day goes or hopefully will see y’all there: February 24th!

Advertisements