Collard greens grow abundantly in First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn, which flourishes through all four seasons thanks to the use of protective hoop houses. A staple dish in the Southern states that is traditionally made with ham hocks or fat back, White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford has a contemporary recipe for collard greens that is featured in Mrs. Obama's book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. In service to Mrs. Obama's healthy eating aesthetic, the Top Toque uses a smoked turkey leg instead of ham. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Comerford in the White House kitchen)
The smoked turkey, wrote Comerford, "adds so much flavor and much less fat to the finished dish." Made with onions and garlic, and served with hot sauce and a splash of apple cider vinegar, the dish is a favorite of the First Family, Comerford said, and "has been served at Thanksgiving, as well as at some special private private dinners in the White House."
Collards are a good source of vitamin C and soluble fiber, as well as low in calories; a quarter pound cooked has about 46 calories. The greens have also been credited with cancer-fighting properties.
In the South, cornbread is traditionally used to soak up what is called the "pot liquor," the nutrient-rich broth that is created after cooking collard greens; there will be plenty to soak up with Comerford's recipe. Check out White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses' recipe for Sweet Potato Quick Bread as a dunking alternative. During the White House holiday parties in 2012, the recipe was served as tiny muffins accompanying carved ham and turkey, but it can also be made as regular-sized loaves. Check the sidebar for all White House recipes.
A large, deep pot is called for in Comerford's recipe, which is cooked on top of the stove. She does not specify if the skin is left on the turkey leg, but it typically falls off after cooking, and the turkey meat is then added to the collard greens.
White House Collard Greens
*1 Smoked Turkey Leg
*1 Bay Leaf
*1 Onion, quartered
*3 Quarts Water
*1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
*1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
*6 Cloves Garlic, minced
*2 Bunches Collard Greens (about 2 pounds), well washed, large ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces
*Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
*Hot Sauce, for serving
*Apple Cider Vinegar, for serving
1. Place the smoked turkey leg, bay leaf, quartered onion, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about an hour, uncovered. Strain the stock into a large container and then set the leg aside to cool. Discard the onion and bay leaf.
2. Drizzle olive oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and cook until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the collard greens and strained stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove the meat from the turkey leg and add it to the pot during the last five minutes of cooking. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Serve with your favorite hot sauce and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
Reprinted from American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. Copyright © 2012 by the National Park Foundation. Published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.
*Top and collards photo by Quentin Bacon for American Grown; Comerford photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama