While attending a Las Vegas culinary arts college in 2012, I decided to make a bunch of recipes for Thanksgiving that were different than what the mainstream food writers were doing at that time. I made country style food, Southern food favorites and traditional Soul Food recipes that were published during that Thanksgiving week. While many other food writers battled it out over the same old fancy Cranberry Sauce recipes and Deep Fried Turkey recipes that year, I was making simple poor folk food, because I was basically penniless while living on a college student budget.
Other food writers were making fake inedible "wax" Thanksgiving food for photo presentations or they spent hours using Photoshop to make their Thanksgiving food photos look perfect for publication. A glossy retouched waxed and oiled food example for photo presentations not only looks fake, it actually is a misrepresentation and a deceptive marketing practice. If the food in a photo looks too good to be true, then it probably is not real food that is meant to be eaten. The dubious practice of making fake "wax" food for recipe photos does cause frustration in home kitchens, because a home cook will wonder why the recipe did not turn out to be like what was seen in the photos.
As a food writer, doing things the honest way is the best way to go. Photographing real food that just finished cooking and was quickly plated, just like in a real home or a real restaurant, is exactly how I photograph every food photo example for every recipe that I write. I decided to do my food writing the honest way from the start, when I published my first series of recipes while working in Chicago back in 2009. As always, I also ate every recipe food example that I made as a daily meal out of necessity.
The honest food photo presentation style and cooking poor folk food for Thanksgiving out of necessity actually paid off. I only had a few dollars for a Thanksgiving meal in 2012, so I went shopping at a grocery store that catered to low income neighborhoods in North Las Vegas. I figured that I would make the best out of what a couple dollars would buy, so I got onions, a bunch of collard greens and some turkey neck bones that were marked down to a very low price. This was the making for some good old fashioned down home Soul Food for Thanksgiving dinner!
I made the old fashioned Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor on Thanksgiving morning and photographed this Soul Food specialty as soon as it was done cooking. Photographing recipe examples quickly is how I work, so I can enjoy a hot meal before the food cools down. As always, the good Soul Food delivered plenty of strength and energy, so it was easy to write the recipe and publish the article by noon, which just happened to be the time that many people went on the internet in search of Thanksgiving recipes.
I realized that there would be plenty of people looking for ways to cook turkey neck bones on Thanksgiving day and the public interest in Soul Food was at an all time high at that time. My Soul Food recipe for Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor recipe actually got well over 1,000 views in the first hour and it moved up to the most popular recipe of the week in a very short time. That really put a smile on my face and the positive public reaction was far more rewarding than having plenty of money for a big Thanksgiving dinner spread. The simple Soul Food Thanksgiving dinner saved the day and it filled my soul with pride!
This real recipe background story is a good example of what Soul Food is all about. Even though I only had enough money for one cheap home cooked meal on Thanksgiving, sharing was still part of the deal. Sharing the published recipe on Thanksgiving day was all that could be done and that act turned out good enough to make a few other souls feel better that day. No matter how tough the economic times are or how down low things may be, there is always simple down home style food to uplift the soul.
*This entire recipe yields 1 hearty portion!
Turkey Neck Bones Preparation:
Select 12 to 14 ounces of turkey neck bones.
Use a sharp butchers cleaver to cut the turkey necks into 2" long pieces.
Chill the turkey neck pieces till they are needed.
Collard Greens Preparation:
Step 1: Select 1 bunch of crisp fresh collard greens.
Soak the collard greens in cold water and rinse the greens clean.
Shake the water off of the collard greens.
Step 2: Place each collard leaf on a cutting board with the thick vein side facing up.
Trim off the thick fibrous stalks.
Use a sharp knife to shave the thick leaf veins, so they are thinner and will cook tender.
Step 3: Cut the trimmed collard leaves into 6" wide pieces.
Set the collard greens aside.
Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor:
Step 1: Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of bacon grease (or roasted pork lard).
Add the prepared turkey neck pieces.
Sauté the turkey necks till brown highlights appear on all sides.
Step 2: Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
Add 1 small chopped green onion.
Add 1 small chopped green jalapeño pepper.
Sauté till the onions start to get some light brown highlights.
Step 3: Add the prepared collard greens.
Stir till the greens start to wilt.
Step 4: Add enough light chicken broth (or light pork broth) to cover the ingredients. (About 3 cups.)
Add 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar (or cider vinegar).
Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
Step 5: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Cover the pot with a loose fitting lid.
Gently simmer till the collard greens start to become tender.
Step 6: Remove the lid from the pot.
Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
Simmer and reduce till about 1/2 cup of liquid remains in the pot.
*The reduced braising liquid is the Pot Liquor! By this time, the pepper and onions should be soft and mushy enough to become part of the Pot Liquor.
Keep the Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor warm over very low heat.
Step 7: Place a bed of the collard greens in a shallow wide stew bowl.
Place the turkey neck bones in the center of the greens.
Pour the rich pot liquor and any remaining vegetables over the turkey necks and greens.
Good tasting old fashioned down home food for the soul!