In these latter days of fat-fearing doctors and dieters and stern-faced television nutritionists, not enough is said about how meat and meat fat, being so uniquely delicious and satisfying, can have benefits for the average lipiphobe. No one in the food media seems to recognize that judicious use of high-powered flavor enhancement can get you to eat all those other leafy, fibrous, multicolored (multicultural?) things the nutrition establishment wants you to eat. And there's no higher-powered flavor enhancer than good ol' pork and pork fat, properly used. Bacon is the best of the options.
Greens — collard, mustard, and turnip — are a case in point. Grab a can of them from the grocery store, and you can see by reading the ingredients that the producer has made an attempt to flavor them already. Salt will have been added, and they've probably been "flavored with pork." They've also been boiled at maybe 10,000ºF for a few hours, and they've been sitting in that can for up to two years. Heat; taste; and you'll know why so many of us don't eat our vegetables. Properly prepared, however, anyone you know who thinks he hates greens might find he can love them.
Here's how to prepare greens properly: Finely dice a slice of bacon and a small onion. Sweat the bacon in a pot, then brown the bacon and onion in the bacon fat. Deglaze with white wine, white vinegar, and some hot sauce. Dissolve a pinch of salt and a good pinch of white sugar in the "pot liquor," then add fresh greens; grind some black pepper over the top. Cover, simmer, and stir frequently until the greens are as tender as you like them. Compare to the canned version.
That takes care of the leafy stuff; fibrous foods become just as tasty with a helping of bacon. This time, grab an actual can off the grocer's shelf: Black-eyed peas. Drain and rinse them, because the liquid in the can is responsible for much of the…gastrointestinal effect commonly associated with eating beans. Again, dice and brown a slice of bacon and some onion; deglaze with a little white wine and hot sauce, and add the beans with a little salt and black pepper. As the beans are heating up, mash some of them against the side of the pot with a fork, and stir, to thicken the texture and capture the bacon bits when you serve.
Notice the flavor enhancers are among the ones used for the greens. This is convenient and gustatorially prudent, as the traditional country-white-trash New Year's Day dinner includes both black-eyed peas and greens. A common meat dish to accompany these two would be fried chicken (but see reasons to substitute for it here). As long as it's New Year's Day, or Saturday, or whenever, and you're cooking all this great food while still wearing your bathrobe, make the main dish delicious and satisfying:
Fried catfish: Dredge the catfish filets in a 6:1 mixture of yellow cornmeal and all-purpose flour (with plenty of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and finely chopped flat-leaf parsley mixed in). Use a high-temperature, low-flavor vegetable oil mixed with some good ol' clarified butter.
So now everybody's happy: The nutritionists, MDs, and other health alarmists are happy because you're eating leafy greens, huge quantities of fiber, and healthy, high-protein fish. You're happy because everything tastes good. Your accountant's happy because greens, beans, and catfish can be had in large quantities on the cheap, especially if you catch the catfish yourself.
Yes, meals that are both healthy and delicious are out there, waiting to be cooked. All you need is some meat and meat fat to make everything palatable.
November 1, 2001
Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a freelance writer and graduate student in economics, and works as a business consultant in the Midwest.
Brad Edmonds [send him mail], MS in Industrial Psychology, Doctor of Musical Arts, is a banker in Alabama.
Copyright © 2001 Karen De Coster