On a Farm in Indiana

Potlikker, Growing Greens & Swiss Chard Panade

By • August 31, 2011 • 31 Comments

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This is the third in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.

Today: Tom on potlikker, growing greens, and Swiss Chard Panade.

  • The Whiskey Tree and Friends
  • If you ever need to locate the Whiskey Tree, it is the tall one in the middle, sort of like trying to find a speakeasy during Prohibition.

Bona Fide Variety Hour

- Tom

I am guessing my Whiskey Tree might be the finest single stool bar in the entire county but that might be because it is the one and only. Then again, this isn’t something I have spent much time looking into either.

Nevertheless, I have bellied-up on an upside down feed bucket at the Whiskey Tree and am pondering the great questions in life while sipping a nice rye in the quiet solitude of a soft breeze, arcadian enough that dust isn’t rolling in from the fields but tempestuous enough to be cooling. The leaves of the upstanding and upright ash tree rustle in quiet distraction, all the while nicely shading my brow from the early evening sun.

The ash tree didn’t choose to have a bar in the neighborhood, but it was nice enough to succumb to the idea and lets things alone, going about its shade tree business in a kind and stoic manner.

The entertainment is good too. The chicken burlesque and comedy hour is surprisingly entertaining and legal in all the lower forty-eight states as far as I know.

Whiskey  Chickens

So it is just after the chickens make a ruckus that I take a sip of rye and wonder, then realize, some might say rationalize, if I have a potlikker problem, as opposed to a liquor or pot problem, although I am having a drink, under a tree, and, um, well, watching chickens.

Yep, there it is, I did it again. I caught myself thinking about potlikker and cornbread. It’s definitely a problem. A problem of the kind where if you don’t have something, you want it, crave it in fact.

Potlikker, being the unctuous swamp water-looking stuff left behind in the pot after the greens have cooked, is usually soaked up with big buttery pieces of cornbread. Simply put, it is to greens what the dark meaty oyster from the bottom of the chicken is to roast chicken, which is usually scarfed down by the cook. More often than not though this likker ritual is enjoyed by a group of folks standing at the stove, dipping, and doing a lot of mmmm, mmmming before being shooed away by the cook so as not to spoil the rest of their dinner. The liquid is full of vitamins and minerals, and most importantly, a tremendous amount of flavor.

Washing Swiss Chard  Onion roots

This quandary isn’t so easy as it may seem. Just getting up and making a pot of collards and cornbread is not the answer. It is mid-summer. There are rules that need to be followed, just like no sweet potatoes before Labor Day, then there is that whole thing about wearing white clothes or knowing that collards are really best after the first frost. Not only that, but collards in summer are just sort of, blech. At least in my mind.

Generally speaking it seems potlikker is more often associated with collard greens than other greens but then that is like making a distinction between wines. All greens have qualities that make them distinctive and delicious and each has its own pairings.

My greens season, mind you I said “my”, goes something like this, baby mustard greens in spring, mature mustard greens to mid-summer, which overlaps with Swiss chard, which runs into early fall, and finally collards and all the kales in late fall through winter.

Swiss Chard  Chard stems

A little clear thinking and the problem is solved. Sip. Chard it is.

I couldn’t be more excited about chard since last year for some reason it wasn’t very good, awful in fact, but I think that was due to my taste buds being out of alignment more than anything. A few weeks after I ripped it out, I wished I hadn’t and I have been craving chard ever since. Last night we had a long gentle rain that perfectly plumped everything in the garden so the chard should be perfect.

Tom's Tips for Growing Swiss Chard

1. Swiss chard is a garden workhorse, which means it is long-standing and great to have around. It isn’t fleeting like peas or asparagus. You can eat a little, leave it, eat other things, and then come back to it.

2. Cut Swiss chard; don’t pull it. It will continually grow back, which means you can plant less, leaving room for other things -- although you want to plant enough that when you cut it it makes a full serving for your family, which for greens is usually more than you think.

3. Chard looks good in the garden, because it is fairly bug resistant and disease tolerant. Mind you, it is not chicken tolerant but instead chicken crack. They love the stuff. The stems also come in colors yellow, red, and white.

4. I prefer to cut it young and when the leaves are smaller and the stems tender but it is also delicious when it is mature and it needs a longer braise time in a pan to become tender.

Onion and Swiss Chard Panade

Onion and Swiss Chard Panade

Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 to 8 as a side.

Having made it many times before, I have been thinking about this recipe for most of the spring. The beauty is its versatility. It can be served as a one pot meal, the bread in the panade being loaded with the potlikker, or as a beautiful side dish, depending on how you make it. I have found it is important, as Judy Rodgers says, to use a 3-inch deep casserole if you want lots of potlikker but if you use a shallow casserole it can also be made more like a strata or savory bread pudding, in which case I would cube the bread.

16 ciabatta slices, each 1/2-inch thick
1/3 cup or more olive oil
4 cups onions, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
8 tightly packed cups swiss chard, rinsed three times and dried, stems cut into 1/8-inch pieces and leaves cut into thin ribbons
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, minced
2 cups or more vegetable broth
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Onion and Swiss Chard Panade

Want more life on the farm? See Tom's post from last week: Cooking by Hand and Peach Pie.

 

Jump to Comments (31)

Comments (31)

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Mrs._larkin_370

about 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

I've got a tequila tree....

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about 3 years ago yercinnamongirl

I have tons of swiss chard in my garden just like that!! Thanks for new ways to use it!!

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

I love hearing that people have tons of chard in their garden. It is such a great plant to grow and you are welcome.

Dscn2212

about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Chard is my absolute, very favorite green, and this makes me see it in a whole new way. I usually just wilt it in some olive oil and garlic. How boring compared to your lovely idea. Your sipping spot sounds heavenly; if I ever drive past, I'll give a wave. And I make a point to regularly wear linen until long after Labor Day.

Dscn2212

about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Love that your silver isn't polished.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

I am guessing out there in big sky country you might have some whisky trees that rival the best in the world.

Dscn2212

about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Really the only thing I'm missing is some chickens with a good act.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

All chickens have a good act, case in point, imitation is the best form of flattery, hence, the invention of the rubber chicken

Dscn2212

about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Note to self.

Dsc_0028

about 3 years ago cookbookchick

My Greek Nana always saved the potlikker (though she didn't call it that) for us kids to drink by the glassful. Good warm or chilled and, as you point out, loaded with vitamins. I am loving your reports, Tom! As for Judy Rodgers, her cookbook is a must-have, must-keep -- a culinary education between two covers. Try her gnocchi if you haven't already!

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

What a great way to get your vitamins. I never thought about drinking it cold, hmm, might make for a good dirty martini. You are right about the Zuni Cookbook, too.

Jess-otoole

about 3 years ago la domestique

I grow chard in my garden and it's visually stunning, extremely low maintenance, and always there when I want it. The panade looks like a great way to use my abundance of chard, thanks!

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

isn't it an amazing vegetable?

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

LOVE panade! It's one of my favorite comfort foods! I've never tried potlikker though. It shall have to go on the to-do list!

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

That is to say, I've always made panade with milk. Do you still wind up with potlikker somehow then? Maybe I have eaten it. Hmmm.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

I guess I never though about it but I guess that would be potlikker. I often cook chard like creamed spinach.

Dsc_0048b

about 3 years ago healthierkitchen

What a pleasure to read! And a great "genius" recipe

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

thanks so much healthierkitchen

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about 3 years ago innoabrd

FWIW, Swiss Chard is what is sold as spinach here in South Africa. Never figured out why, and it's just starting to change in the high-end shops here where, finally, actual spinach is available! Collards abound, the Zimbabweans have been growing them for decades and now there are so many Zimbabweans here you can find collards on the street in a number of areas. Nary a frost to temper them though...

sorry to say, I can't stand chard. makes my mouth feel fuzzy...why is that?

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

That is interesting, if it is cut young it can be treated much the same as spinach. Funny you say it makes your mouth fuzzy. Do you mean more like and a cotton ball that soaks up all the moisture in your mouth. That is what spinach that has been blanched and wrung of its moisture does to me and I am guessing the same holds true for chard that has been cooked the same way. Maybe if you cook it at home and braise it leaving all the moisture you won't get the fuzzies.

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about 3 years ago innoabrd

Not dissimilar to something that I sometimes (but not always) get with fresh pineapple. I have a 'geographic tongue' (http://en.wikipedia.org...) so might be linked to that.

For years here people have treated chard like spinach, even serving it as a spinach salad...but not nearly young enough!

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about 3 years ago Kelly Clark

I am in love with the whiskey tree.
AND, this part:

baby mustard greens in spring, mature mustard greens to mid-summer, which overlaps with Swiss chard, which runs into early fall, and finally collards and all the kales in late fall through winter.

It reminds me of a child's jump rope song...or something...

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your writing, but this one is my favorite.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

thanks Kelly

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about 3 years ago Bevi

Beautiful recipe and lovely article. I am taking this to a pot luck next week - so seasonal and I too am a tarragon fan.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks Bevi, tarragon goes great with Swiss Chard.

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Another great article and recipe Tom, thank you! In my family after my Mother made the greens usually mustard we all stood around with big hunks of Italian bread. I never ate cornbread until I left home except in stuffing. Will have to try the panade looks wonderful.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks, you know with each passing day it seems like I hear about more and different greens recipes. It seems as though every culture has a few in its arsenal. One of my favorites right now is an Ethiopian collards recipe that is blended with spices and cottage cheese.

Meat_shop_2

about 3 years ago speak/tompach

Love this article. It is written so humanly. Thank you, for it and the recipes!

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

Thank you

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about 3 years ago lastnightsdinner

That Zuni panade was such an eye-opener for me when I first prepared it - so humble, but so deeply satisfying, and a great transitional recipe for late summer into fall. As a fellow fan of tarragon, I look forward to trying your version! And I'm a huge fan of chard. It grew beautifully in our Brooklyn garden, though I have yet to try my hand at it here in RI. Luckily, our local farmers have got us covered.

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about 3 years ago thirschfeld

It was the first recipe I made from her book followed a few days later by her roast chicken and bread salad. I had dinner there a number of years ago and it was the first place I ever had fresh sardines.