Can we just have a moment of total culinary transparency?
Last week I cooked the worst dinner I have made in marriage, perhaps in my entire life. It was a ghastly chicken mole mess that tasted like sickly spiced yet creamy chicken goo and it looked like how food should look going out, not coming in. I took all of four bites before I pulled a trick I learned from babysitting toddlers and refused to take another bite, arms staunchly crossed over my chest. James bravely chewed on for another half serving … but he would later regret that decision. Nothing I can say can do justice to how truly terrible this dinner was. There were ultimately two tragedies to the Chicken Mole Disaster of 2015. One, I had made enough to have leftovers, which meant a huge waste of money and time. Two, this was a recipe from an actual published cookbook that I had followed exactly, and from which I have cooked many other delicious things with success. Mine even looked like the picture. What this means is that I succeeded in making chicken mole. It also means that I hate chicken mole and should have guessed from the ingredient list that this dish was not for me. As we sat around the table and made fun of our piles of sad food, christened “Puddle Meat” by James, he had me start listing off the many ingredients. I got half-way through when he stopped me to announce that the mystery was not Why is this so bad? but rather What made me ever think this would be good in the first place? After the Chicken Mole Disaster forced us into eating cookies for dinner (let’s be real — we could have technically fought back had we so chosen), I had a little PTSD in the kitchen. The next night I pulled an audible and we trudged through the snow for pizza. I cooked some pretty excited things when we were holed up in the Whole30, but that infernal pile of brown chicken set me back something fierce. It had me craving afresh simple foods, meals with few ingredients and crisp leaves. Food bursting with color and lacking in strange combinations of tastes.Which brings me to collard greens, the nice mild cousin of that bold brash kale. Collard greens are cheap and can sit for awhile in the fridge without getting slimey. They are a beautiful deep hunter green that makes me want to blow up those collard close ups and just roll around in them. And they are pretty hard to mess up. You just keep cooking them in any sort of good fat and they get better and better. They are a humble vegetable of the South, keeping good company on the veggie list with mac n’ cheese and fried okra. Collard greens carry no pretense. Once upon a time I tore a recipe out of a magazine for chicken thighs baked with collard greens. I have since lost that piece of paper, searched that recipe the Internet over, and then resigned myself to recreating it. This is food at its simplest: dump some stuff in a pot and cook it till it’s done. Should you be sans dishwasher like myself, nothing is more enticing than dinner made in one pan. And when the dinner in that pan also happens to be Whole30 approved and oozing with southern comfort food goodness? Even better. Of course, in my new distrustful of recipes state, I hesitate to even share this. What if this is your chicken mole, your perfectly executed recipe that tastes offensively bad? If that is the case…. might I invite you to leave a lengthy comment of protest below. In return, I shall send you a case of Puddle Meat. Perhaps it will be to your liking. Roasted Chicken and Collard Greens
- Chicken thighs with skin on (the skin is crucial here, though the cut of meat is not*)
- 1 large bag or bunch collard greens, washed, hard stems removed and cut in strips
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- Hot Paprika
- Ghee or butter
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat a dollop of butter or ghee in large ovenproof dish on stove. Cook chicken skin side down until skin is golden and starting to become crisp. Remove.
- In chicken drippings, cook onion and garlic until soft. Add collard greens and tomatoes (with juices), and a dash of all spices. Cook until greens have reduced by a little less than half.
- Return chicken to pan, skin side up. Cover and bake until chicken is fully cooked, about 30-45 minutes. Meat juices will flavor the greens and make them just the best thing ever.
- This makes a perfect meal for two, or you can use more chicken thighs and roast some sweet potatoes alongside and use the greens as a side.
- *I have heard mixed reviews on eating chicken skin on Whole30. While Paleo allows it, some Whole30-ers were out there bashing skin. I decided that if bacon is acceptable, a little skin isn’t going to kill us.*
Ok, be honest: what are your kitchen failures? Please tell me you have a Puddle Meat in your past.