Braised greens with smoked ham hock and white beans
Photo by Kieran Scott
I’ve just spent three weeks in the deep southern states of America. I ate croc, cornbread and my own weight in smoked brisket, yet one of the most surprising dishes I had was sweet peas at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, famed for its wet fried chicken. These peas were almost grey, but boy did they pack a delicious punch. As a chef we are taught to blanch and refresh green vegetables in iced water to retain their colour, as we eat with our eyes, but I am a rule breaker — for me, flavour is king.
At Depot I always cook from raw just after you make your order, grilling asparagus and braising brussels sprouts in chicken stock. This way of cooking ensures all the flavour is served on your plate instead of left in a pot of boiled water. Inspired by those humble peas here’s my take on a southern classic — collard greens.
I’ll “posh” it up a bit by adding good quality white beans and smoked hamhock. Collard greens are thick leathery greens and quite hard to get a hold of in New Zealand, so I’ve subbed them for cavolo nero and kale, but if you can get hold of some authentic collard greens my tip would be to double the cooking time and add some additional stock. You want to end up with meltingly tender greens and enriched braising liquor ready to be mopped up by crusty bread.
- Place ham hock in a pot just big enough to fit it. Fill pot with water, bring to a boil then simmer with a lid on for 2½ hours or until falling off the bone.
- Allow hock to cool on a plate and reserve 1½ cups of the cooking liquid. Pull the hock meat from the bone and lightly shred. Finely dice the smoked hock skin and reserve the bone for cooking the greens.
- Prep the cavolo nero or kale by holding the base of the stem with one hand. With the other slide your fingers down the stalk to remove the leaf.
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and gently cook the onion until soft.
- Add the cavolo nero or kale in batches, placing the lid on top so it wilts slightly, adding more until it all fits in the pot.
- Add the broth, brown sugar, malt vinegar and some sea salt flakes and black pepper. Bring to a simmer then half cover with lid (you want some of the liquid to evaporate and reduce). Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the cavolo nero or kale is just about tender.
- Fold through the white beans, shredded ham hock meat and lemon zest. Cook for 2 more minutes, adjust the seasoning and serve.
Kyle Street, executive chef at Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar and Federal Delicatessen, is an avid lover of street food. He takes a playful approach to cooking — for him it is all about provenance, big flavours and, most importantly, respecting his ingredients. Find more of Kyle's recipes here.