07 November 2009

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook

Sam Beall, the “a” is silent, runs the kitchen and much of the rest of Blackberry Farm, an idyllic local in the Smokey Mountains. After traveling hither and yond with his nomadic parents, Sam’s mother found a dilapidated farm and made it home. Soon there was a bed-and-breakfast, a restaurant, a garden and animals. Sam went off to study at the feet of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry but, like a good Southern boy, he came home to his mama and took over Blackberry Farm.

It is a great publicity story, but what is often left out in the casual telling of this story are several facts, including Sam’s parents started Ruby Tuesdays and Blackberry Farm sits on 9000 acres, but other than that, mom did take a broken down little farm and turn it into a big-ol' renown bed-and-breakfast.

It takes nothing away from Blackberry Farm, I’m just pointing out that turning a little farm on 9000 acres into a world-class resort is a bit easier to do if you have piles of money. (The converse is also true; you can have piles of money and turn 9000 acres into a gigantic failure.) So kudos, to the whole Beall clan.

It is no doubt that after Thomas Keller, Sam Beall knows a thing or two about putting together a stunning art/cookbook and The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, falls into that category. The photographs of the farm thought the seasons are breathtaking. And, trust me, the boy can cook. While it might be remiss to have a “Southern” cookbook without fried chicken, Beall has a half-dozen fried chickens to choose from.

I am enamored of his Kimchee Collards. If you have ever cooked a big “mess” of collards, you know that they are a bit on the aromatic side and they take a long time to cook. In my family, my great-aunt Mamie, cooked the collards – no one else was allowed to touch them. She cooked them for hours with pork and in the last few seconds she cut them into shreds and drained off the pot-likker into lovely china teacups to be served next to the collards. It was a meal to behold.

Beall takes a different approach to the collards. He makes a kind of kimchee, fermenting the raw collards for several days, creating a rich and savory side to any meat, including fried chicken.

Kimchee Collards

1 pound collard greens, stems discarded and leaves cut in 1/4 inch strips
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
4 small radishes, shaved paper thin
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup thinly sliced whole scallions
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (for more heat, do not seed)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1. Place the collards in a large colander set inside a large bowl. Sprinkle the collards with salt, toss, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Discard the liquid that collects in the bowl. Rinse and drain the collards, squeeze them dry, and transfer them to a large bowl. Stir in the carrot, radishes, soy sauce, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Pour the liquid into a small bowl and stir in the honey and vinegar. Stir the garlic, scallions, jalapeno, and red pepper flakes into the collards. Pour the soy mixture over the collard mixture and stir to combine.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least two days before serving. Store covered and refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Next time you find a big mound of collards at the market and think to yourself, “I’m not cooking those in my house,” give this kimchee a try.

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