Michelle Madden, for the Gazette
In my opinion nothing says “The South” quite like the smell and taste of southern mixed greens and cornbread. Something about the combination of greens, onions and bacon that sends your senses into overload in the most comforting and satisfying way. As the last lazy days of summer quickly came to an end, I’m reminded of my loving grandmother and how I miss her amazing cooking.
I’m grateful to have had my grandmother’s influence and recipes to continue on with some of the yummy traditions she shared with our family and friends. One of my absolute favorite recipe combinations to make are her Southern Style Mixed Greens and Sweet Corn Bread. The smell consumes my sensories and instantly I’m nostalgically taken back to my youth standing beside my sweet grandmother in her kitchen as she taught me how to “pick” the greens (remove the good leaves from the tough stalks and bad parts of the leaves), wash, chop and cook the variety of greens.
Although my grandmother’s recipe is more traditional, using pork in her greens, mine is just a bit more healthy. I use smoked turkey wings or legs to replace the “fat back” in the original recipe. The balance of seasonings, vegetables and smoked meat make a great combination of flavors that will not only dance on your tongue, but also will stir up an appetite just by the smell of it all. During the process of preparing the ingredients you’ll find yourself anticipating the southern comfort of the finished products.
Whether you use smoked meat or no meat at all, these recipes will become family favorites that they’ll be sure to request time and time again. I love simple meals that remind me of my childhood and all the stories my grandmother used to share with me as she reminisced on days long past and shuffled effortlessly around her kitchen. Like a professionally trained chef she created delicious masterpieces that always filled her home with tantalizing aromas that greeted you before you could step foot on her porch.
Even the most culinary challenged will find this meal/side dish to be a cinch to make. Once prepared the Southern Style Mixed Greens and Sweet Cornbread are the perfect any time comfort foods. Both are very versatile dishes. The flavor combinations and the variations of cooking methods are vast — far beyond my imagination, making them a top 10 go to for easy to prepare southern comfort foods in my opinion.
So let’s roll up those sleeves, wash those hands, get our apron’s on and let’s get ready to make some culinary goodness that will wow your friends and family. Don’t be nervous to explore. Even the Sweet Cornbread can be kicked up a notch or two simply by adding a little honey in the batter and then again when its fresh out of the oven. Just spread some real sweet cream butter on top and drizzle with more honey. You could even make your cornbread little savory by adding a little shredded cheddar cheese, chopped chives and bacon. Anyway you prepare your Southern Style Mixed Greens and Sweet Cornbread just be sure your main ingredient is always love.
Southern Style Mixed Greens
12 Hickory smoked bacon slices or one smoked turkey wing/leg
1 medium vidalia onion chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 (32 ounce) containers chicken broth
1 pound of collard, turnip and kale greens (or your own preferred combination)
1/3 cup apple cider or regular white vinegar
Dry seasonings to taste:
Italian seasonings, lemon pepper, dried onions, seasoned salt and Accent
Rinse fresh greens very well of all dirt, bugs and debris. Cook bacon until crispy with the chopped onion in a large stock pot or add smoked turkey to chicken stock and all other ingredients. Cook for 2 hours or until tender.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk/milk
1 egg slightly beaten
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place butter in 8-inch square pan and into the oven to melt the butter. Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar(optional) in a medium mixing bowl. Beat buttermilk and egg together in a measuring cup or bowl, then stir into dry ingrdients. Carefully remove hot skillet from the oven and pour melted butter into cornbread batter-mix well. Pour the batter back into skillet/square pan and bake for 17 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
l Michelle Madden of Cedar Rapids has a catering business called Tastefully Made Creations (www.facebook.com/TastefullyMadeCreations).