Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Series of Substitutions

Our plan for dinner this evening was set. Tam would pick up some fish and kale at the market; Laura would stop into the wine shop on her way home from work. We would reconvene with our wares and commence cooking.

Although we've been enjoying our investigations into English cuisine, what with all the deviled innards and sticky puddings, there are some days when you just get homesick; and what we were missing was the highly spiced seafood of our college days in New Orleans, which has, in fact, maintained a constant presence in our kitchen (especially on football days) even since we've moved from the Big Easy. Furthermore, some good old American fare seemed appropriate for the celebration of a day when we woke to the fantastic news that the Democrats were back in control of the House - cheers and huzzahs! So: blackened fish fillets, roasted potatoes, braised kale (which we thought was about as close as we could come to collard greens in Shepherd's Bush), and, oh yes, hush puppies. (For the uninitiated, these are little round balls of deep-fried cornbread batter, salty and addictive and fundamental to Southern cuisine. According to the Joy of Cooking, their name comes from the former practice of Louisiana fishermen who would throw these little scraps to their barking dogs while preparing for a crawfish boil, shouting "Hush, puppy." Apocryphal perhaps, but an appealing explanation.)

The first glitch came when Tam's hurried stop at the fish market found the mongers out of everything but salmon and cod, neither of which seemed quite appropriate for the planned menu. His search for kale was likewise unlucky. In despair, he emailed Laura to see if she might be more fortunate at the market in Kew. Alas, no; there was - oddly - a van selling fish out of its back door just outside the tube station, but it smelled funny and she was suspicious. Instead, she bought two poussins on sale and found collard greens (labeled simply "fresh greens," but collards nonetheless!) at the shop, and hauled her booty home on the train plotting new culinary directions for the evening. At home, we spread potatoes, collards, and our little chickens out on the counter. Inspiration came in the form of an Epicurious recipe for a potato galette.

The elastic French term "galette" can refer to any number of flat, round dishes, including savory buckwheat crêpes that are cooked on only one side; rustic, pastry-based desserts like Galettes des Rois (the traditional cake served during Twelfth Night festivities, and the ancestor of the New Orleans "king cake"); and sweet or savory rustic tarts. This version combines potatoes and collard greens.

Like kale, collard greens are a primitive ancestor of the cabbage and were cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The word "collard" derives from the Anglo-Saxon coleworts or colewyrts, meaning "cabbage plants." Collards are popular in the cuisine of the American South, where they're often served on New Year's Day, usually in a braised preparation which yields a soupy result tasting strongly of bacon, garlic and vinegar. If this doesn't sound appealing, let us assure you that it is truly delicious, as is the resulting "pot liquor."

We blanched the collards and sauteed them with garlic and hot pepper to infuse them with flavor, then arranged them between layers of sliced potatoes. This could be a jumping-off point for experimenting with any number of galette fillings; we thought that mushrooms or an herb/chive mixture might make good candidates. The tiny chicken was rubbed with olive oil, garlic and lemon and very simply roasted. Together, they made a tasty French-influenced New South plate, silencing at least some of our cravings for the flavors of New Orleans. Which is not to say that blackened fish and hush puppies won't make an appearance sometime soon...

Roasted Lemon Poussin

1 poussin (baby chicken)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 lemon, halved
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper

Rub 2 crushed garlic cloves all over poussin and then insert them under the skin of the breast. Rub olive oil, salt and pepper over poussin, inside and out. Put 1/2 lemon and 2 remaining garlic cloves into the cavity. Let sit for 1/2 hour at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place chicken on roasting pan or in cast iron skillet and roast for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before carving or cleaving in half.

Serves 2.

Collard-Filled Potato Galette

3 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 lb collard greens, ribs removed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced into rounds
Salt and pepper

Blanch collards in a large pot of salted water for about 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain collards and squeeze to expel water.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat in heavy 9-inch skillet. Add garlic and stir briefly until browned. Add pepper and stir for another minutes. Add collards and saute for about 5 minutes. Season with lemon juice. Remove mixture to bowl and wipe out skillet.

Coat skillet with 1/3 of the remaining butter. Arrange half of potato slices in overlapping circles in pan. Brush top of potatoes with another 1/3 of butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with collard mixture. Arrange remainder of potatoes in the same pattern over the collards; again brush with the rest of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Weight with a heavy skillet.

Cook uncovered over medium high heat for about 12 minutes. Then carefully flip galette (the easiest way to do this is to invert it onto a plate and then slide it gently back into the pan) and cook on other side, again weighting it with the skillet, for another 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 servings.

Adapted from Gourmet, September 2006

1 comment:

Annie M. said...

Rescued! I made "Winter Lentil and Kale Soup" a few days ago and was fretting about what to do with the slowly wilting kale in the refrigerator. I suspect that if you can produce a galette in your tiny London kitchen, then I can do the same in our teeny New York kitchen. Thanks Tam and Laura!