There has been a lot on my mind lately that I just can’t seem to shake no matter how much I try to move on, certain thoughts still linger around, unsettled I suppose, now going on the second month. I’m talking about people, my southern brethren to be exact, folks who just don’t know how to act nor have learned the values of living. That’s it in a nutshell.
Now, I get all riled up when I see a chef go and do some dang fool thing with a southern recipe, meddling with it or doing something that I purely disagree with and then calling out to all that it’s the real deal. That’s one thing; it’s my opinion and I think I have the right to do so and I guess they have the right too. I have called out on such a thing a few times before and probably will again. Of course, the person that I’m talking about, well, I can say I have never thought of using the title ‘chef’ as reference. Why, that’s like calling me a chef and we all know I’m nothing more that a cook. A self-made entrepreneur for sure, this person climbed to TV stardom and is indeed a very shrewd business person. A ‘celebrity chef’ is perhaps more fitting, but I still think adding ‘chef’ is using the title loosely. Although she did entertain me for a short while before I became bored with the epitomized act of all things southern even though her southernism is a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing. The south was and is the main focus of this celebrity’s food, media and merchandising commodity, but really, do we southerners really tauk like that?
And, when I see such a person acting a fool on a matter that should have been answered and coped with and overhauled so long ago, it just tears me up. To sling slurs as a child or young teenager is one thing. We can blame it on peer pressure. But this is a grandmother. And we are not talking about targeting aspersions toward just one group. Why, no – she made sure she scooped everyone up in her sweet pot. I doubt her intentions missed any of her many pursued crowds. Well, it just goes to show that sooner or later, as grandmother used to say “even sweet honey brings out nasty flies.”
Oh well, I may not feel any better; my head might not be any clearer nor my heart any lighter and I might have offended a few but I do have a real, bonafide southern recipe to share. One that I am proud of and one that’s the real deal. This recipe or versions like it, been around for decades, resilient to disparateness long before anyone ever thought of becoming a ‘celebrity chef.’ Enjoy!
Smothered Thick Pork Chops
over Seasoned Collard Greens
for the Smothered Chops:
Salt, pepper and seasoning blend
4 thick cut pork chops (about 1-inch thickness), diced
3 pieces thick cut hickory smoked bacon
2 tablespoon light olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into ribbons
2 garlic toes, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves or 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, optional
Dry chops completely with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and a seasoning blend. I used a no salt Creole spice mix but any Mrs. Dash or other blend would do just fine to add a bit of flavor to the meat. Set aside.
In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, cook bacon until lightly browned. Remove bacon with tongs to a plate to drain and remove all but 1 teaspoon of bacon grease to a large stockpot (for cooking the collards). Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil. Add chops and cook about 3 minutes for a good brown sear to form. Turn chops over and sear the other side cooking for 3 minutes. Remove chops with tongs to a clean plate.
Stir in the onion and bell pepper cooking for about 5 minutes until light brown. Remove onion and bell pepper with a slotted spoon to a bowl leaving as much oil as possible in skillet. Stir the garlic into the skillet and cook until fragrant. Add flour and stir to mix. Cook stirring the bottom for about 4 minutes or until mixture is light brown. Slowly add chicken stock and stir to blend. Add bay leaves, thyme and parsley. Add additional salt if needed to the gravy. Nestle in the chops and spoon gravy over the top of each. Sprinkle the onion mixture onto each chop. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, test (pork should be 145 degrees F.), cover and turn off heat.
for the Collard Greens:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small hot pepper or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bunches fresh collards (or packaged if desired)
2 cups or more chicken stock
1 smoked ham or turkey meat
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cider vinegar
Rinse greens underwater in a deep sink if possible allowing grit to settle to bottom. Remove greens and drain water rinsing away the grit. Repeat until no trace of grit remains. Remove the thick stems and discard any blemished leaves. Rough chop collards and put aside.
Add olive oil to stockpot with bacon grease and heat over medium high heat. Add onion and hot pepper. Saute until onion is soft. Add a handful of collards at a time tossing all while cooking until all the greens are wilted. Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the ham hock and simmer covered on low until greens are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove cover, add the vinegar, stir and continue simmering out most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Do not allow collards to scorch.
Spoon with a slotted spoon a helping of collards on each dish. Top with a pork chop covered with onions. Divide the gravy among the chops as well as the bacon.
Note: Back in the day, for many households, the collards were cooked into the gravy mixture (which was thinned out) with the chops nestled in during the tenderizing stage of the last, long simmer.