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Monday, November 7, 2011

To The Side

Some of the vendors at our farmers' market have started packing up for the season. The recent frosts and freezes have zapped most of their tender produce. 

On our last visit to the market,  most farmers were hawking the last of their seasonal wares. While pickings were slim at most tables, we were blown away with the variety of interesting things still offered by Elmwood Stock Farm. As I filled my bag with baskets of purple potatoes and handfuls of tender kale, Michael asked about their huge watermelon radishes.  He wanted to know if the green tops were edible.  I loved that. Of course, we snagged a bundle of the bulbous radishes.

A few nights ago, Michael and I craved comfort food. Old school comfort food like meat and potatoes with a little something to the side.

Cooked radishes taste a lot like cooked turnips, so I decided to pull a riff on basic kale and turnips by braising  the kale with sliced watermelon radishes and their greens, creating a  mixed  mess o' greens.

I wasn't shooting for pretty greens.  I wanted down and  dirty soulful long cooked greens. The kind that show up at church Decoration Day potlucks.

After slicing a few slabs of thick-cut bacon into 1 inch pieces, I dropped them into a very hot dutch oven to crisp before adding sliced onions, mashed garlic, and red pepper flakes.  While the onions cooked down, I  stripped the tender leaves from the kale and sliced them into bite sized pieces, repeating the process with the radish tops. After rinsing the sliced greens, I tossed  them into the hot oniony bacon grease to steam and wilt.

The pale exteriors of watermelon radishes belie their inner beauty. When sliced, they reveal shockingly vibrant fuschia colored flesh. The pinkness took my breath away. Stunning. 

When the simmering mixed greens wilted into the bacon fat, I deglazed the pot with chicken stock and added the sliced watermelon radish wedges. After bringing the liquid to a boil, I reduced it a simmer, covered the pot, and let it bubble away for 1 1/2  hours, adding more stock as needed to insure we'd have plenty of pot likker.

Just before serving, I showered the drab greens with cracked tellicherry peppercorns and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I spooned the greens into individual bowls, tucking the translucent radishes into the soupy nests with a scattering sliced purple onions, chives, and lemon slivers to brighten the sleepy mess o' greens.

Spiked with biting cracked pepper and acidic lemon, the long braised mixed greens were robust and deeply flavored, providing an earthy base  for the mellowed turnip-like tang of the watermelon radishes. Edible jewels. Comfort.

Although the braised greens and radishes were wonderfully warming, they paled in comparison to the luscious pot likker puddled in the bottom of our bowls. Tangy. Salty. Sweet. Tart. Drinkable.

In fact, sometime during the wee hours of the night, I snuck down to the kitchen, tipped the entire pot of greens to my lips, and drank every last drop of likker. Heaven.

So much for leftovers.

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