Last weekend was California Comfort. The 7 course, 40 person dinner party was a success.
The concept was simple: California cuisine meets southern comfort foods.
Chicken fried steak was a must. We swapped out steak for shrimp, which in our case qualified as "Californian." So we had fried shrimp. But it needed something else.
Enter: collard greens. Momofuku's recipe for collared greens is silly delicious and can be found in southern cuisine. Why, you ask? Because they're cooked in bacon. Which naturally, makes most things taste better.
Chicken fried steak is traditionally served with gravy. We created a vegetarian mushroom gravy to accompany the shrimp (I'm not sure why, since the rest of the dish is not vegetarian or even pescetarian friendly). It's frankly the healthiest part of the dish.
Here's the recipe. The gravy and collard greens can be made a day or two ahead and reheated while you fry the shrimp.
- 1 piece of bacon, ideally applewood smoked
- 1 bunch collard greens
- 1 tbs sherry vinegar
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1c water
Throw bacon into a large hot skillet. Allow fat to render.
Wash and de-spine collard greens. Chop into rough pieces, about 1-2 inches each. Once most of the bacon fat has rendered, toss in the greens. Be careful, as any water that may run off will cause the fat to splatter.
Toss the pan, evenly coating the greens in fat. Once the greens have given up some of their liquid and started to shrivel, stir in the vinegar, brown sugar and salt. Allow to cook for several more minutes. The greens will continue to shrink.
Add the water and cover the with a lid. It's time to ride this part out. After about 15 minutes stir and taste. The greens should be tender. Under normal circumstances it should take 20-30 minutes for all the water to evaporate and the greens to cook through.
You could be done at this point. If you want to add an extra special touch, remove the lid, and continue cooking the greens until just crispy. This step can be done while reheating.
Remove the bacon and discard (you could eat it, but it'll taste like flavorless rubber).
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms
- 2-4 cloves of garlic - how garlic-y is your preference
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1c vegetable stock
- 4 tbs butter
- salt & pepper for taste
Finely chop or food process mushrooms and garlic until fine. Mince onion.
Heat up two large skillets and add about 1 tbs olive oil each.
Slow cook the onions until soft and tender - about 30-45 minutes. The trick is to not touch the onions for the first 5 minutes, add about 1 tsp of kosher salt, toss, and continue to toss every 10 minutes thereafter. The weight of the onions on top will lightly press down on the bottom, drawing their liquid and cooking them evenly. Once they're soft, tender and sweet, they're done.
Cook the mushrooms (and garlic) over medium heat until soft and have given up all of their liquid - about 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium high and slightly char the mixture. This'll give 'em a nice smoky flavor.
Combine the mushrooms and onion in a blender or food processor. Blend until a smooth paste. Slowly add vegetable stock about a 1/4c at a time until a thick liquid forms.
Add gravy to a small saucepan and cook over low heat. Add stock as necessary until the desired consistency is achieved. Season with butter, salt and pepper (the butter isn't necessary, but of course gives the gravy a richer flavor).
- 2/3 lb large shrimp (quantity honestly depends on how hungry you/your guests are)
- 2c breadcrumbs, with whatever spices you desire (garlic powder, salt and pepper are my go-to)
- 1c all purpose flour
- 2 eggs, whisked well
- Canola oil; enough to fill 1.5in deep in pan
Arrange breadcrumbs, flour and eggs in separate bowls. Heat up oil in large skillet.
Peel and devein shrimp if necessary. This next step is crucial: thoroughly dry every crevice of every shrimp. Doing so will allow your batter to stick, which will prevent it from falling off while frying.
Individually batter shrimp in this order: 1) flour, 2) egg, and 3) breadcrumbs.
Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. You may need to flip in-between.
Putting it all together
Arrange collard greens on center of plate. Top with shrimp. You can either serve the gravy just to the side, or between the greens and the shrimp. Drizzling it on top of the shrimp sounds like a good idea, but it ultimately looks like a bird flew overhead and had an accident.
Photos by Gaul Porat