Collard Greens, Pork Belly, Turnips and New Year’s Tradition.

Collard Greens & Southern New YearI’m not a superstitious person to say the least, but I can’t fight tradition. For as long as I can remember my family has eaten the southern staples every New Year for the first twenty years of my life and then I may have fallen of the bandwagon a few times between twenty-one and thirty but who’s counting?

It simply goes without saying that I’m a sucker for comfort food and the first of the year is just a really good reason to gorge on all of my favorite southern eats. Excuse me while I get sentimental for a moment, if you follow, you’re used to it. If not–you’ll learn. Imagine for a moment sitting on a worn in sofa, you know the one where it’s the only place you’ll take a nap despite the piercing spring you feel on your hip bone. There’s a quilt draped across the back side for easy access when the sudden urge to nap consumes you. The smell of crispy pork bits are filling the living room with a light smoke that dances beneath your nostrils. Lids are trembling from steam fighting through the pots of collards and black-eyed peas. The sizzle of butter around the sides of the cast-iron work its magic on the cornbread and in that moment–your heart is full and your stomach overwhelmed with anticipation.

See, back then New Year’s resolutions were but a thing of some other culture. It was never spoken of at our house. It was more about the blessings of being alive another year, surviving the trials and tribulations that life had brought us the previous year. Reliving the joyous moments of life events and looking forward to what the year would bring. If memory serves me well, I believe collard greens brought ‘good luck’ and I could say without hesitation that a bowl of potlikker and a hot piece of buttermilk cornbread would be a perfect last meal contender.  And anyone graced with a bowl should consider themselves none other than lucky…or blessed. There’s nothing quite like it when you talk about southern foods.Collard Greens, Pork belly, Turnips and New Year's Tradition


But moving on, these collard greens are so easy to make that it’s a perfect side dish to accompany various meals. And I made them the way my great-grandmother used to with a nice slab of pork belly, but you may also use a ham bone or bacon if you please. I can even recall there being some ox tail in there a time or two, so as you wish. First, I pre-heat the oven to 450° and cook off the pork belly, skin side down for about twenty-minutes to render some of the fat off and get a nice sear. While that is cooking, I simply take three bunches of collards – I rinse them under cold water to remove any residual dirt that may be hanging around. I cut the stalk out of the center because it can be annoying to chew on, well at least for me, but hold onto them. Layer the greens, roll them, and cut them into 1/2 inch ribbons. Then take one quart of water and two cups of chicken stock or three bouillon cubes for two cups of water, the stalks and bring it to a boil. Throw in a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and Texas Pete…or Tabasco. Once the liquid begins to boil, remove the stalks and add the greens, cover the pot. I usually let the greens cook for about an hour and a half before I peel, chop and my turnips. If you put them in too early, they will turn to mush and that’s not acceptable. Allow the greens to cook for about two hours or so, though there are those who believe that they should be cooked twice as long, not I.



You can tell that the greens are done when you can penetrate them with a fork with ease, and they are tender. Not to mention, your eyes may involuntarily roll back into your head and your toes may curl. You’ll see what I mean. I love to eat greens with a hot pan of fresh made cornbread or lace hoe cakes, but my grandmother also ate them with a slice of white bread when the mood hit, so as you wish. This year has already been filled with so many changes and I’ve learned some new things about myself. Things that need improvement and things I didn’t even realize were there. Either way, I’m excited about making improvements for the better. I want 2015 to be a year filled with more ‘I dids’ instead of ‘I didn’t’s’. And I’m wishing the same for you this year. Discover something new about yourself and find ways to improve or maybe just enjoy what it is you discovered. But in the meantime, sit down and enjoy a hearty bowl of collard greens and pork belly, you deserve it.


Chicken & Rosemary Dumplings

Autumn is in full swing and my allergies are going bezerk, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love this time of year any less. And I’m sure Merck doesn’t mind my monthly stock on allergy meds due to the molding leaves and wacky weather. Tennessee weather enjoys the occasional roll of the dice, never staying in exactly the right box according to the equinox. But twenty-nine years later and I still find myself having to adjust (#sadface). Despite the effects this time of year has on my health I still love it for the beauty that it brings.Autumn by The Local Forkful

Autumn crept in our back doors this year and didn’t make much of a scene. You could find her trace at the end of summer with the tumble of scarlet leaves across your shoe or a subtle chill across your cheek. I’m a fool for a reason to pull out the heavy blankets, make excessive amounts of french press, and drive slowly on the back roads.Autumn by The Local Forkful

This time of year I find myself to be in a constant state of uneasiness. I’ve never been able to pinpoint it but once fall-back is in full force. I find myself twiddling my thumbs more than usual I could blame it on the dark arriving during the five o’clock hour or the weather’s cooling that causes me to slow down. But there’s nothing I want more than to sit on the couch, drink coffee and read food literature. I crave a simple life where hustle and bustle isn’t at the center of it all. Though I am clearly living in an era where this sort of lifestyle is no longer existent, or maybe it is?

Chicken & Dumplings by The Local ForkfulOne of the best things about the cool weather settling in, is the desire for comfort foods. Hearty dishes that we avoided all summer for the sake of our beach bodies. And now the guilt that once had you chained no longer bounds you when reaching for that hidden jar of Nutella (secrets out!). When I think of some of my favorite cold-weather eats, chicken and dumplings is pretty high on the list. This dish was and is still a childhood favorite. In the past few months I have been collecting chicken stock from roasting chicken for other dishes. You won’t a more flavorful rendition than collecting the jus from roasted chicken itself. Not only that but the fat that surfaces to the top, also known as schmaltz is a fantastic by-product when collecting the juice. The only thing to make this any better would be the leftover gribenes but that’s a whole nother conversation.

What’s your favorite cold-weather comfort foods?

Chicken & Dumplings: Recipe by The Local Forkful

Chicken & Dumplings by The Local ForkfulIngredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary (fresh)
smidgen of kosher salt
4 tablespoons schmaltz (chilled chicken fat)
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 quarts chicken broth
1 whole roasted bird
2 bay leaves


1. preheat oven to 400 degrees. Follow Instructions here for Simple Roasted Chicken.Once chicken has cooled. Remove the meat from the bone and set aside.

2.Bring your 2 quarts of chicken stock and bay leaves to a rolling simmer. Remove bay leaves before adding dumplings.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder,kosher salt and rosemary in a bowl. Pinch the schmaltz and the flour together using your index finger and thumb.Until mixture starts to resemble coarse cornmeal.

Side Note:I enjoy getting dirty when making dough so leave the food processor under the sink.

4. Slowly add buttermilk a little at a time until dough begins to form. You may not necessarily use all of the buttermilk. Use your best judgement. The dough should be slightly moist and tacky. Roll the dough onto a floured surface. I usually dip my hands in flour to work with the dough better and cover my rolling pin in flour as well. Roll dumplings somewhere between 1/8″ and 1/4″ of inch thick. I like to roll them really thin because once they absorb liquid they slightly expand and I like thin dumplings. Cut the dumplings using some fancy gadget, a pizza cutter or a pairing knife into 1″X1″ squares or larger if you prefer. You may also go grandma’s route and forget the rolling all together, then you would just simply “pinch” the dough into the pot. Which can be fun as well. Decisions. Decisions.

5. Drop the dumplings into the hot broth and allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes. You may need to remove a dumpling or two to check for done-ness and the dumplings should be wet on the outside and a biscuity-moistness on the inside. The residual flour from your dumplings will thicken your broth as you go. I like to swirl the broth as I drop in the dumplings, kinda like poaching eggs. Once dumplings are finished, add the pulled chicken. Dinner is served. Yum!

Also if you like a thicker, creamier version of this soup then simply whisk together 1/2 a cup flour and enough water to form a runny pasty mixture. This could be called a roux or slurry(tomato…tomatuh). You are going to whisk this ‘slowly’ into your chicken and dumplings until desired consistency is reached.

Chicken & Dumplings by The Local ForkfulExtras: On day two of eating leftovers, the wife and I like our veggies. So I will dice some carrots and potatoes. Gently boil them in water with a couple of chicken bouillon cubes(to add flavor) and add that to my soup. Cornbread also makes a yummy addition. You’ll never want to leave the house with a bowl of this in hand. Enjoy!
Chicken & Dumplings by The Local Forkful