Monday, March 20, 2006

Ice Harvest, Day 3

I guess you could say progress is being made.
Some food from the freezer was consumed today: One-half of a small freezer-bag of frozen chicken.
Oh, sure, we had to mix it (or, in the correct but unfortunate parlance, "extend" it) with some cooked canellini beans. Some fresh stuff in the fridge — jalapeños, tomatillos, onions and a pasilla pepper — that had to be used up. A splash of chicken stock, that if not used soon, will end up IN the freezer. Some flavorings from the pantry.
But we scored. It turned out to be a most delicious white chili.
So this is all doable.
I'm just not sure it will all be done within two weeks, my original goal for eating my way through the horribly congested freezer.
However. Different topic. Today's post is about an old pal.
I used to have a business relationship, strictly by telephone, with a nice young man. I could tell he was what you might call sensitive — That is, he loved the arts, he was interested in food, he was devastated when his kitten died. This, I knew from our non-business chit-chat, which is almost always part of business chit-chat.
I got to talking to Vini one day about the collard greens I'd been learning to cook, southern-style. He brightened.
"Do you ever add diced turnip?" he asked.
Wow. No, never thought of it.
"How many peppercorns do you usually put in?"
Huh? Peppercorns?
I began to pump Vini for more suggestions; he sounded like he knew his stuff.
He also sounded like a pale, skinny, solitary guy: tiny voice, unassuming manner, sweetness and light.
When I finally met Vini in person, I realized I'd been right about everything but the physical impression I'd formed of him. Vini is a huge man. Huge in height, huge in girth. And not only is he not light in avoirdupois, he's not light in skin color.
Well, as I live and learn!
I'd been learning how to make stewed greens from the right guy, a man with deep southern roots (annual family reunions, cornbread, cornrows, the whole deal).
Vini's greens include, besides the wads and wads of cleaned, chopped, mixed greens (mustard, collard, kale, etc.): smashed garlic, whole peppercorns, a chopped turnip, a chopped carrot, a couple of strips of bacon, a couple of cloves, a dash of hot sauce, some vinegar added close to the end of cooking. And. And.
Oh, I have it all written down somewhere, but it doesn't really matter. When I was learning this from Vini over the phone, he would often drift off for a few seconds, and then say: "Oh, maybe a bay leaf. Hmm. A small drizzle of honey."
It was a riff, built around a general theme. Each day's version could be a little different, and it would still be the same... but different. Maybe a different kind of greens (today I used carrot tops and two colors of chard). Maybe turnip but no carrot. Salt pork instead of bacon.
One constant was long cooking. I find that many of the greens found in markets today can't bear long cooking; you be the judge.
Another constant was pot likker. Make sure there's enough water in the pot (an inch or so) to keep things soupy; the greens will collapse into silky ribbons.
So how does this fit in with cleaning out the freezer? Hey, I'm ever-vigilant.
1) I used leftover corned-beef cooking water to stew the greens in; that means less that will have to be frozen. 2) Um. We had to use up the chard. 3) We already had turnips and carrots in the crisper.
Oh, god, this is going to be so hard!
But yummy.


kudzu said...

Where's Vini, and why isn't he cooking my dinner?

Where I ate them, turnip greens cooked with diced turnips were called "roots and greens" -- as opposed to those without (collards, plain turnip greens, mustard greens). Those are all stanch-leaved plants and take long cooking -- unlike spinach, chard, et al. The pot likker is almost like the jus with a meat dish -- poured over broken-open chunks of cornbread or patties of hot water cornbread. Some cooks drop corn-meal dumplings (known many years ago as cush-cush) into the pot likker as the greens cook.

Omigod, my mouth is watering.

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, you just reminded me of the hot water cornbread I want to make from Damon Lee Fowler's book! This will be perfect.
We were going to make a batch of rice, but I like your idea better. Cush-cush! Drool.
For the record, Vini's greens never had more than one leetle turnip, diced. But, oh, the language: "roots and greens."
(Vini had the temerity to suggest that I, as a female, might benefit from the iron in the pot likker. What a gent. Where is Vini? In the East Bay.)

kudzu said...

Cookie -- Yes, we used only one small white pearly turnip, but the title was still plural. And I meant to write "staunch-leaved" . Enjoy the cornbread!

cookiecrumb said...

OK, well -- two new MORE things I've learned.
I love this biz. Thanks.

Kalyn said...

This is an admirable undertaking you have taken on. I hate to admit it, but I have a huge refrigerator with a side-by-side freezer and also an upright freezer, both stuffed. I could never clean mine out if I cooked every day for six months, but I do try to rotate things so they don't go bad. (And then there's that FoodSaver machine which seals it so you can keep it frozen for eons. My favorite kitchen device. Ok, one of my favorites.)

cookiecrumb said...

Kalyn: My parents gave me their FoodSaver machine when they moved. They couldn't find the CD about how to use it, though. Do you think I can just bully my way through? I'm sort of scared of it. (OTOH, when I do learn how to seal food, I can try the sous vide technique!! Heh.)
Wait. A whole extra freezer? Damn.

Dagny said...

I am loving your adventures as you empty the freezer. I always find it challenging to figure out what to do with those odd bits that have somehow found their way into storage.

vanessa said...

I love meeting people like that. Totally unexpected in some way. And so helpful with the food. What a kind beautiful soul :)

Cyndi said...

We're on the same wavelength with the freezer thing. I saw an article in a scrapbooking magazine about "using your stash," and it was a challenge to not go to the store, but to use up the supplies you have. I thought, "why not try this with my freezer and pantry at home?' I have so much in there, so much that's not really OLD, but is old, and I plan to either use it or toss it. One thing that will help with the meat, at least, is that anything that's not vaccuumed packed with my month-old Foodsaver must get used first. I think you're going to be eating better than I am, though.

BTW--a slice is a dessert in bar form--layers of things like fruit, custard, etc. on a crust in a (usually) 13 x 9" pan.

Sam said...

Freezer day one - got home defrosted two sausages of unknown type, thought they were Meguez, but turned out not to be which was a shame considering the recipe i concocted. Ran out of pasta but found a jar of couscous in the cupboard. half an onion, a little chilli oil, clove of scratty old garlic, end of a wrinkled old chilli pepper fried them up, added the couscous which i soaked in a small carton of veggie stock first, and then stirred in a pot of red pepper and basil sauce from last summer - also found in the freezer.

Two freezer items down, several more to go...

(thanks for the inspiration)

ilva said...

I'm on Sam's line, yesterday's dinner a freezer clean-up one, aspargus and porcini pasta, meat for the kids. You're started a movement here, cc! Better get down in the kitchen and check the freezer right now...

Kevin said...


I do love greens.

I was in Charleston for a food event some years ago and we went to the Saturday Market. There were a couple of people selling spices and spice mixtures and I picked up a jar of Collard Seasoning. Oh, man! I don't know what was in it, but it was very closely related to curry powder so once I ran out of the Collard Seasoning I started adding a generous dash of curry powder to my collards. We're talking seriously good, here.

mrs d said...

Closest I think we're ever going to come to this is maybe an inventory. Or, the power goes out. Still, inventory would be good, if only to uncover the trout.

Y'know, health inspectors are already getting all pissy about Sous-Vide. Sheesh. It's Francophobia, I swear: "Oh my god, a new cooking method from France, where they don't refrigerate their eggs! Quick! Ban it!"

drbiggles said...

If you were my neighbor I would have given you a few nice strips of the bacon (and sausages) I drove to Mt. View for. Dittmer's Wurst Haus is one of the best things to have ever happened to me.


KathyF said...

Collards and vinegar. Made for each other.

I do miss collards. They have these baby collards, that they call spring greens here, that are a pale imitation of real collards.

Sigh. We won't even talk turnip and mustard greens.

cookiecrumb said...

Biggles: I am your neighbor, dammit! But then -- I bet you didn't know that Cranky and I bought a raft, a RAFT, of sausages at Dittmer's to grill for the family gathering the night before our wedding in Palo Alto. Oh, man, that was a long time ago. Thanks for the memory.
Ev'body else: Good work!!

Sam said...

i like dittmers petit sale myself.
made into a nice choucroute.
Actually I couldnt really care aboutthe choucroute, just the petit sale

cookiecrumb said...

So. I Google petite sale. And the third listing is @#**&! Biggles . Wouldn't you know?

cookiecrumb said...

Er, petit. Preview failed me.

Catherine said...

Now that's an awesome pic!