Welcome to A Very GBH Thanksgiving. This week, we’re using our Provisions category as an excuse to indulge a’la the season: five courses—soup/salad, vegetable side dish, starch, main dish, dessert—over five days, with some tasty beverages sprinkled along the way.
A pair of our most food-centric writers—one in London, one in Chicago—are teaming up to create this GBH-endorsed Thanksgiving feast. Please enjoy, make it your own, and don’t forget to show some gratitude over the next couple weeks.
—Austin L. Ray, GBH Editorial Director
Course 2: Roasted Root Vegetables and Collard Greens
I love where I grew up, but diversity was not a strength of the land on which I was reared. In the mid-1980s, the tapestry of different cultures in Nebraska started with Catholics and ended with Protestants. Even “ethnic” cuisines (Italian, Mexican, Chinese) were presented through a narrow perspective: Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and cheaply delivered sesame chicken.
The only “green” I remember eating growing up was iceberg lettuce. But eventually, while pondering Fuzzy Zoeller’s racist comments from 1997, a curiosity was sparked within me w/r/t the importance of food to a person’s culture. Those unfortunate comments also opened my eyes to the bounty of delicious and mysterious dishes that awaited past the boundaries of my naive life experience. But informative resources were sparse. My local public library and mother’s salon's subscription to Bon Appétit wouldn't cut it. Luckily, I ended up washing dishes at the “nice” restaurant in town, with a head chef all the way from the big city of Detroit.
I’ve had 30 years of Thanksgivings, and they’ve all been good, but there’s only so much of the same food you can eat over and over before you never want to see it again. I haven’t wanted roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic for several years, even though they are, objectively, one of the best things you can make. I am tired of cranberry sauce. Turkey is something I don’t need to eat again, not ever. I crave novelty inconveniently, in all the wrong contexts.
I’m lucky, then, that living in London has given me the excuse to adapt. Many traditional Thanksgiving ingredients are expensive or hard to source or simply unavailable, and besides, most of my guests aren’t American. Who would know the difference if I decided to skip the cornbread?
This isn’t total anarchy—the categories don’t have to change. I still want roasted root vegetables, for instance, just done a little differently. These I’d describe as tradition-adjacent: still fragrant with autumnal spices, still the necessary shade of Thanksgiving orange, but also not typical. That’s thanks to the glaze, which mingles sweet-savory miso paste, nutty sesame oil, piquant ginger, and woody maple.
Chuck’s job in Detroit, back before he arrived in my hometown, was managing a strip club. But he also spent years running kitchens. One day I asked him if he knew how to make greens. He gave me his usual, suspiciously narrowed side-eye: “Why?”
Chuck always thought someone was trying to pull one over on him, and after a life in food service and adult entertainment, who could blame him? I told him I was curious. Once you broke through his paranoia, Chuck was a wealth of knowledge, not to mention an entertaining teacher. He learned how to make greens years ago in Detroit from some older female coworkers. And while he may have detoured from his culinary tutoring with Red Wings hockey anecdotes and bawdy jokes involving baguettes, he eventually passed on the lessons he learned from those women.
There aren’t very many different ingredients to greens, but each one has a ton of flavor. For the most part, you have three basic elements: the greens, the braising liquid, and the smoked meat. The key is to show attention and patience to extract all the possible goodness from each element. First, the braising liquid.
I often think of Samin Nosrat’s anecdote from Salt Fat Acid Heat, in which she attends her first proper Thanksgiving meal as a college student, only to find, disappointingly, that the food is “soft, rich, bland.” She diagnoses this palate fatigue as a lack of acidity, which is why cranberry sauce—often the lone source of acid on the table—is so often pressed into service. Here, I’ve added a good glug of rice vinegar to impart some balance instead. A finishing addition of ground cardamom and a fistful of parsley further vivifies things, and prevents these vegetables from being simple stodge.
You may not be inclined to pair a beer directly with a side dish—I certainly don’t know anyone who drinks that way. But you should know that West Coast-style Pale Ales and IPAs go surprisingly well with umami flavors. During the course of our meal, we cracked several cans of Burnt Mill’s Beyond the Firs, which is as piney as its name suggests, and also fragrantly citric. At 4.8%, it’s vibrant without overwhelming the food, and works very well alongside miso in particular. A worthy addition to your beverage program, in other words.
You can go a few different routes with the braising liquid. Any kind of stock will work, be it veggie- or meat-based. And since you can extract a ton of flavor from greens, if you’re in a pinch, you can use water. I use cheap beer. I don’t keep supermarket, mass-produced stock on hand. I think it's gross. And I generally never plan far enough ahead to make a specific stock for braised dishes. I’ve become accustomed to supplementing my procrastination with cheap Lagers. Cooking greens is no different.
I will dilute the beer, generally with the residual water left on the greens after cleaning them. Between that water and the liquids that the greens themselves will release, you’ll have the opportunity to dilute whatever braising liquid you choose. I’m not looking for someone to take a bite and ask me, “You put beer in this?” I’m just trying to build a flavorful foundation for the rest of the elements. Two other key elements of my braising liquid are 1) an onion, which is probably expected, and 2) Chungjang, which I’m guessing probably isn’t.
Chungjang is a Korean fermented black bean paste. I started using it in my greens when I was looking for additional techniques to add to the braising liqud’s depth of flavor. Chungjang is optional, and if it isn’t available, your greens will still be packed with flavor. But for me, it’s small trick to build that flavorful base I look for.
This stock will also help create the most magical part of the dish—the potlikker. After hours of cooking and reducing, the remaining liquid is one of the best things to eat on earth. Potlikker is like pork cheek or chicken oysters—a criminally overlooked bite packed with flavor. When cooking greens, always make sure you have enough water, and take the time to maximize flavor. When serving greens, make sure to stir and spread the deliciousness around. When eating greens, always pull from the bottom of the pot for the good stuff.
I use both collard and turnip greens in my recipe. And to be honest, I’ve been using both for so long, it’s hard for me to remember where the collards end and the turnip greens begin. The collards break through a bit more on the palate, but the turnip greens have enough character to remain present.
For smoked meat, I like to use turkey and ham hocks. I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where both are readily available. If I’m making a smaller batch, I’ll choose just one, but similar to the greens, I prefer using both. You could use this recipe with only collards and only a ham hock, and it would work out just fine. But since there are very few elements to this dish, it makes sense to take every opportunity to add levels of nuance to it. Adding a bit of variety to the greens and smoked protein helps achieve precisely that.
Finally, before I walk away from this dish and let time do its job, I add some apple cider vinegar and red pepper flakes. The cider vinegar helps make sure that the fat from the ham hock and turkey don’t overpower the dish. The heat from the red pepper flakes keeps the dish vibrant.
I usually allow for at least 4 hours to cook greens. The collards, turnip greens, turkey, and ham all need time to individually break down and then come back together. If I have my druthers, I cook these a day ahead and then warm them up in an oven before serving. Warming them up on a stovetop can result in scorched greens, so don't stop stirring.
Roasted Root Vegetables with a Miso Ginger Glaze
Inspired by Food52
For the vegetables
3 pounds assorted root vegetables (I used sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips)
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
For the glaze
3 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
3 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons minced ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 390° Fahrenheit (200° Celsius). Peel and chop the root vegetables into roughly 1-inch pieces. Add to a bowl and set aside.
2. Make the glaze. Add the first 4 ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until uniform. Add the minced ginger and whisk to combine.
3. Drizzle ⅔ of the glaze over the vegetables and toss lightly to coat. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet (the vegetables should be in a single layer—use 2 baking sheets if not). Season lightly with salt and pepper.
4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are just fork-tender, rotating the pans and tossing the vegetables halfway through to ensure even cooking.
5. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the remaining glaze. Sprinkle over the cardamom. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 5 minutes.
6. Just before serving, taste and season with additional salt or pepper, if necessary. Top with the chopped parsley.
3 pounds of collard greens
3 pounds of turnip greens
2 garlic cloves
1 16-oz. can of Miller High Life (or any other lightly hopped Lager)
1 medium-sized smoked ham hock
1 smoked turkey wing
1 tablespoon Chungjang (optional)
½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
1. Remove stems from collard green leaves, either with knife or by folding leaf in half and ripping spine out by hand.
2. Lay 5-7 leaves on top of each other. Roll into bunch and then slice into ½ inch strips. Rough cut strips until greens are bite-sized.
3. Lay 5-7 turnip green leaves on top of each other, and proceed in the same way. Turnip green stems are more tender than collard stems and don’t need to be removed.
4. Fill clean sink half way up with water and add greens. Dirt gets caught in the leaves of both the collard and turnip greens, so wash thoroughly. This may require a change of water.
5. Slice onion and sauté in butter. Season with generous pinch of salt. When onion is translucent, add crushed and roughly chopped garlic.
6. Once garlic becomes fragrant, add beer.
7. Add Chungjang and stir, waiting for the paste to dissolve.
8. Add clean, wet greens to the pot. If you start to run out of space, cover and wait 5-10 minutes for greens to cook down. Continue until all greens are in the pot.
9. Once all greens are in the pot, bring braising liquid to boil, then cover and turn to medium-low. Keep covered for 30 minutes.
10. Remove lid. Greens should have significantly cooked down and released liquids.
11. Keep partially covered and at a simmer on low. Check periodically. If you’re running out of braising liquid, add water.
12. Cook for at least 4 hours, or until meat can be stripped from ham hock and turkey wing.
13. Once you’re finished cooking, remove ham hock and turkey wing. Using a fork or paring knife, remove meat from ham hock and turkey leg. Chop all meat into small pieces. Return meat to greens and mix thoroughly.