A Mess O’ Greens

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Today’s brunch actually started a few days ago. I had prepared some ribbons of collard greens (cooked just until tender, not to mushy death) using smoked pork necks as a base and my secret enhancements – a bit of butter, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and hot sauce (not secret anymore, I guess) – in the pot likker to bring some character and complexity to it. For the uninitiated, pot likker (i.e., pot liquor) is the heavenly liquid that is left over after greens have been cooked. Needless to say, after I consumed the collards, I saved the pot likker to work its magic on another day.

Today was that other day. It happened that I had a bunch of greens from various sources in the fridge: kale, beet greens, mustard greens, and redvein dock; I also had a few stems of Tokyo turnips (aka hakurei turnips), the leaves of which would integrate perfectly with the verdant mélange, and of course, the transcendent pot likker waiting to be called upon to glorify the mundane.

On the side, I dished out some leftover potato salad with bacon (one of my signature recipes that calls for a ratio of 2 pounds of bacon to 4 pounds of potatoes plus lots of other good stuff) that I had recently made for a party (you know, how to win friends and influence people). The Japanese turnip roots got a shower of dill. But it still needed a bit more zhuzh to make a proper meal of it, so after a bit of contemplating, an over-easy fried egg with lots of freshly ground black pepper did the trick.

For a bunch of remains and surpluses, this is one of those times when the leftovers outshined their progenitors.

Pi Day – Petee’s Pie Company

From a visit to the amazing Petee’s Pie Company in Manhattan back in April, 2018.

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Pi Day is upon us! The official day that celebrates the astonishing discovery in 1988 that the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi (π≅3.14) correspond to the calendar date using the month/day format (3/14).

Provided, that is, that you don’t use the MM-DD format with its leading zeros. Or that you’re literally anywhere in the world outside of the United States where, intuitively, DD-MM-YYYY puts the numbers in order of significance. Or that you’re not enamored of the eminently more logical and sortable YYYY-MM-DD format.

But I digress.

IMHO 🥧 > 🍰 and Petee’s Pie Company at 61 Delancey St in Manhattan and 505 Myrtle Ave in Brooklyn dishes up some of the best I’ve ever tasted, but making the decision about which of the delightful daily selections to choose is neither as easy as pie nor is it a piece of cake. Of course they have wonderful fruit pies, nut pies, and custard pies, but their chess pies are always first to grab my attention.

Chess pie occupies (ahem) the middle ground between cheesecake and custard pie. Devoid of cheese and generally with a little more body than custard pie (often due to the addition of cornmeal) they are incredibly rich and, unsurprisingly, hail from America’s South.

Folktales about the genesis of its name are plentiful. One has it that chess pie is so sweet, it needs no refrigeration and could therefore be kept in the kitchen pie chest → pie ches’ → chess pie. Another speculation involves a tangled explanation involving English curd pies (think lemon curd as opposed to cheese curd and therefore sans cheese) and an American corruption of the British pronunciation of “cheese pie” – a long way around if you ask me. I favor the simpler, homespun tale that goes, “That pie smells incredible! What kind is it?” to which the modest Southern baker’s humble response was, “It’s jes’ pie.”

This incredible black bottom Almond Chess Pie infused with amaretto, topped with toasted almonds, resting on a layer of chocolate ganache and served with housemade vanilla ice cream was the capper on a day so packed with pigging out that we wondered if we would have room, but it was so delicious that it wasn’t a stretch. (Not so my belly, however.)
Visit Petee’s Pie Company on the web to check out their complete menu.

Tessey’s International Kitchen

Instagram Post 11/2/2019

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She was a tough old bird, both in the barnyard and on the table. Nigerian Hard Chicken is prepared using older hens who laid their last egg when they wore a younger bird’s feathers. And yes, the meat is hard indeed, and chewy as well, but certainly flavorful. Fortunately, we also ordered Red Stew, a simple and tasty Nigerian dish made from red pepper, tomato, and love which turned out to be a perfect accompaniment. Darn good collard greens rounded out this pre-game lunch at the recently opened (June, 2019) Tessey’s International Kitchen, 2542 White Plains Rd in Allerton, The Bronx, where Nigerian as well as soul food options rule the roost.

The entirety.