Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Slivered Collards with Brown-Butter Pepperoncini Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumbs

I got the idea of making a raw collard salad, like the kindof kale we all know and love, from the “Shaved Collard Greens with Cashews and Pickled Peppers” recipe in the the exciting, inspiring book Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, which I have now had to return to the library (sigh). 
I am also reading this book, and it is so, so deliciously good.
The collards are a little smoother than kale, a little silkier and stronger tasting, both sweeter and more bitter both, if that makes sense. The pepperoncini is in his recipe; the brown butter is all me. And boy is this a delicious late-winter dish: spicy and zippy, but rich; green tasting, but also deeply brown tasting; leafy and crunchy and well-loved by everyone. You could, of course, make it with kale if you prefer. I haven’t, but I am completely confident it would be great.
Is this a good place to tell you I have a new column up over at Motherwell?
Slivered Collards with Brown-Butter Pepperoncini Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumbs
I have made this salad a number of times, and sometimes I have put grated parmesan in it. You can do that, but I actually think that the flavors are cleaner without the funk of cheese. Although maybe something is wrong with me, since I have never thought that anything ever would be better without cheese, and I am suffering from dementia, and you should ignore my advice. I am mentioning that the collards would ideally be room-temperature because the dressing is butter-based, and it will have a slight inclination to congeal on cold greens in a cold bowl. Starting with everything a little warmer than cold is ideal. (What if you put raisins in the dressing? Mightn’t that be good, in an agrodolce kind of way? I am just thinking out loud here.)

1 bunch clean, room-temperature collard greens (or kale)

For the crumbs:
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the dressing:
½ stick salted butter
½ cup pepperoncini rings
¼ cup liquid from the pepperoncini jar

Prepare the collards: Strip the leaves from their stems by holding the stem in one hand and hand-jobbing the leaf off with your other hand, if you know what I’m saying. Save the stems to make this. Chiffonade the leaves: stack them, roll them up tight, and sliver them across into fine ribbons. You should have around 5 cups of slivered collards—more or less is fine, just adjust the dressing accordingly—and you should put them in a large salad bowl.

Toast the crumbs: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat, then add the crumbs and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are crisp and golden, around 5 minutes. Scrape the crumbs into a bowl so they can cool without burning.

Make the dressing: Melt the butter in the crumb pan over medium heat, then continue cooking it, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter gets golden-brown and smells nutty and insane, another 3 or 4 minutes. It will foam up at some point, and then the foaming will subside, which is around the time you will notice that it’s just about done. Immediately dump in the pepperoncini and their liquid, and cook for a minute or two, swirling the pan, until the liquid is a little bit reduced.

Pour the hot dressing over the collards and toss well. If you like, you can use your hands to massage the kale, which will soften and excite it, but you’ve already given it the hand-job treatment, so this added sexual favor is totally up to you. Taste for salt (it may not need any), then top with bread crumbs, and serve immediately. 

The prize for reading to the end! This newly minted fifteen-year-old. What the?