My mum never insisted on me eating my vegetables. Although she made sure that I eat something at all, it was always up to me what I put on my plate. This might give you the idea I grew up on chocolate and spaghetti, but it wasn’t like that at least most of the time. She made me want to eat healthy. She tricked me into eating vegetable loaded meals, which were luring with some sort of meat or melted cheese. My mum is good in hiding healthy under irresistible stuff, like broccoli with a Hollandaise sauce or cauliflower with browned butter and roasted seasoned breadcrumbs.
Her approach is that a meal doesn’t have to be healthy by all means. No, she brings on the heavy cream, bacon bites and she knows how to play with flavors and how to cover up even boring vegetables under garlic or herbs. For her it’s all about the balance and that is the theme for this collard greens recipe.
This dish came together unintentionally but nevertheless even more badly needed for comforting. The other day I came across fresh smoked ham hock and I bought some home for the first time in my life with the plan to figure out, what to do with it along the way (read no plan at all). The next ingredient I came across was the collard greens, piled up tremendously by a business savvy vendor on the farmers market. I brought as much as I was willing to carry, knowing that I might have to eat collard greens for the rest of the month, just because I felt sorry for him to clear away this hill of greens at the end of the day.
On my way home a recipe already started to take shape in my mind, this is how my brain works, it’s almost useless for doing math in my head but boy I know exactly what’s in my pantry and how to combine those ingredients.
I needed something warming and filling, and easy to heat up the next day, I chose goat cheese for it’s capability to oppose with the smoked ham, a mozzarella would not be able to do such a good job in this gratin. Everything came together very well and I have the feeling it’s going to be keeper and I am waiting for the next smoked ham hock coming my way.
- 2 bunches collard greens, washed, center ribs and stems removed
- 200 g / 7 oz. cooked black eyed peas
- 1 pound smoked ham hock, diced
- 130 g / 4.5 oz. breadcrumbs (I used panko gluten free) about 1 ¼ cups
- 475 ml / 2 cups milk (2%)
- 2 large eggs
- 140 g / 5 oz. chèvre, fresh goat cheese
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ - ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- go easy on the salt
- Preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F and grease a medium size baking dish
- Roast the breadcrumbs in a dry pan (without fat) until golden brown, set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile roll the collard green leafs like a big cigar and slice thinly. Cook for 4 minutes in the boiling water, drain and immediately transfer to a bowl with ice water. Drain well and squeeze out excess water.
- Fry the diced smoked ham hock in a heavy bottom pan over high heat until browned.
- In a blender combine the milk, eggs, goat cheese, garlic clove, cayenne pepper and salt, blend until smooth.
- Transfer the ham hock, beans and collard greens into the baking dish and pour over the milk-mix. Cover evenly with the breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes.
- This gratin reheats very well and it also makes a great leftover dish.