Dead Man’s Greens

This recipe popped up in the paper a few months back as “Kilt Greens” and I thought “well okay, let’s see how the Scots do their veggies.”  Turns out, it’s not Scottish — but quintessentially American, from Appalachia.  I asked my North Carolina native neighbor and she said her mom served them all the time as “killed lettuce.”  Killed … sounds so clinical, so unlike the bruising but non-fatal pummeling these greens take, and so not-piratey.  I saw a simple solution in the old sea shanty of “Dead Man’s Chest” — so be sure to serve these with cornbread and a yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

Dead Man’s Greens or Kilt Lettuce

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1 bag or about 8 cups arugula
2 scallions
4 slices bacon
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper
Cornbread to serve

This recipe as a concept is one I do all the time — I love to toast pine nuts or pumpkin seeds or saute aromatics in olive oil with salt and herbs and then pour the hot oil over a sturdy salad green.  The hot oil has all the flavor of the nuts and herbs and sticks to the greens as it gently wilts them and oh boy does that make salad better than usual.  Here, the unique treatment is that you use hot bacon grease and oh boy does that make salad even more better than usual.  So cook the bacon until it’s pretty darned crispy — and if you have a choice, get the fattier cut of bacon … even more than usual, the fat is the point here.

This salad really does make a pretty satisfying meal, with the meat and cheese and fat content, but if you throw some cornbread alongside it’s just perfect.  So while your bacon is cooking, whip up even a box-mix cornbread, which is totally fine because the secret to good cornbread is the pan … cast iron, heated super hot in the oven with some oil in it BEFORE you put the batter in.  I used vegetable oil because, well, my bacon grease was otherwise spoken for, but if you have extra bacon grease (like there is such a thing) that’s fantastic for cornbread too.  Heat the oven per the instructions for the cornbread mix, pour a tablespoon or two of oil in your cast iron skillet, put it in the hot oven until almost smoking, about 3-5 minutes.

Then when you put the batter in the hot pan, the oil surrounds it and creates so much crispy, flavorful edging while the center bakes.

Combine your greens and sliced scallions.  I used arugula here — I saw mache, iceberg, romaine and even kale recommended in some recipes.  I think heartier greens like kale or, heaven forbid, collards would take a bit more work to soften.  Iceberg … I just don’t see responding appropriately to the hot oil.  Arugula, mache, dandelion and even romaine have enough heft to dance with the grease, but not so much that they stay bitter without a good long cook or massage.  Toss the greens and scallions with apple cider vinegar.

When the bacon is extra crispy, remove it from the pan to drain on paper towels, leaving as much drippings behind as you can.  Chop the bacon, and immediately pour the drippings over the greens and toss.

Scroll up and down between this picture and the one a couple spaces above — you can see how much the greens wilt, though still maintaining their structure and now tasting like bacon.  I’d happily wilt in a bath of bacon grease.

Toss the greens again with the chopped bacon and blue cheese crumbles, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

Serve to a happy, healthy skipper and drink and the devil had done for the rest...ARRRRR!

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