Monday, April 11, 2016

coconut milk braised greens

Collard greens are something I'm really been enjoying lately. When given the option, I'll get them. I love that they have a bitter and vinegary flavor, but also have a rich texture when eating.  I have been wanting to prepare my own, so I did some research and saw a lot of the typical collards boiled with ham hocks or turkey necks.  All of that sounded amazing, but coming across posts of people braising them in coconut milk with ginger really made me interested.  I love cooking with coconut milk and I could already taste the flavors together.  This was the route I wanted to take: greens braised in coconut milk and a veggie broth with roasted aromatics, ginger, garlic and gochujang to add some heat and umami to the dish.

I had a box of veggie broth to use as braising liquid along with coconut milk, but I wanted to add a lot of additional flavor, specifically the taste of roasted aromatics like leeks, ginger, garlic and shallots.  I placed this in the oven at 500F for about 20 minutes then turned them halfway through to get a nice amount of color on everything. I added these to the vegetable broth and boiled. In the meantime, I started to prepare the greens.

For this dish, I'm using mostly collard greens, but I did pick up some turnip greens as well. As far as I can tell the turnip greens are more tender and not as bitter as collard greens. To begin preparing them, I removed the thick middle stem from the greens.  This was probably the most time consuming part of the dish, but it was also relaxing to focus on one thing for a while. After removing the stems, I rinsed off the greens, rubbing them to make sure the grit comes off.

After the initial wash, I did my best to stack the collard greens, starting with the biggest leaves and placing smaller ones on the inside.  From here, they can be rolled up into cigars as shown above.  I like doing it this way because you can slice across the rolls and make really nice strips of collard greens.  After this it is time for another rinse to make sure they are very clean before cooking.

This is my favorite part of the process, I just think it is very pretty to see the ribbons of greens floating in the water. I like the texture as I run my hand through the water to shake the greens out a little.  By this point, I strained my aromatics from the vegetable broth and set to the side. In the same pan I sautéed onion, garlic and ginger in coconut oil. Once these softened, I added a couple of tablespoons of gochujang.  This is used to add spice as well as umami flavors to the greens, I have used soy sauce and sambal previously which also work well. I added a couple of cans of coconut milk and let it come to a boil.

I reduced the pan to a simmer and added all my greens. I let them braise on low for 2 hours, they should be tender but still with some texture, maybe around al dente. Being hearty greens they should hold up as long as it was a low simmer. They will wilt and reduce in size significantly, releasing their juices into the broth making a nutrient rich and delicious pot liquor.  You should definitely drink all of this up, or us it for a soup the next day.  To finish, I seasoned with salt, pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar (I did half rice and half white vinegar).

The greens were delicious, the gochujang added a nice layer of flavor that went well with the coconut milk and ginger.  I love the texture of the greens cut in ribbons and their bitter taste balance with coconut, vinegar, and heat make them very satisfying and nourishing. This is something that can be served as a side, or my favorite: served as is over white rice, mmmmmmm.

5 bunches collard greens
2 bunches turnip greens
3 leeks, sliced in half
1 large knob ginger, crushed
1 head garlic
4 shallots
32 oz vegetable broth
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2-3 tablespoons gochujang
2 cans coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar

1. Begin by roasting sliced leeks, crushed garlic, unpeeled garlic cloves and shallots in a very hot oven. The goal is to get a nice dark brown color or even some charring on them. Turn halfway through to get color on the other side.

2. Add all of the roasted aromatics to a pot with the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, simmer for at least an hour.

3. In the meantime, remove stems from all of the greens and wash by hand. This is easiest in a clean sink or a large container of water. Once this is done, lay the greens flat, starting with the biggest leaves, maybe 10-15 leaves each. Roll each pile of leaves into cigars and cut across to create ribbons.  Place these in a large container filled with water to rinse once last time.

4. Strain the broth, in the same pan sauté onion, minced garlic and ginger until softened.  Add the gochujang to and cook for another minute before adding the vegetable broth and coconut milk, bring to a boil for 15 minutes.

5. Add all of the greens, if there is not room stir to start wilting them, they should reduce in size significantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.

6. To finish, stir in vinegars as well as additional salt and pepper to taste.

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