Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Utica Greens

The regional dishes of New York have always fascinated me. Many times they are delightfully weird bastardizations of ethnic cuisine, hybrids that meld the products of our American industrial food machine with concepts from the old country. Utica, NY is known for several unique Italian dishes. I have already shared with you my take on Chicken Riggies, now we shall move on to Utica Greens. My interest in Utica food was reignited by a friend who came to a recent get together bearing said greens as well as a twelver of Utica Club (in bottles!). My recipe is a loose take on the one that he uses.

The typical Utica Greens are a spicy amalgam of escarole, long or cherry peppers, bread crumbs, prosciutto, pecorino and some other good stuff, broiled to form a golden brown crust on top. These are served as a side dish, with some bread, or in my favorite way, on top of a chicken cutlet sandwich.

Unfortunately, I couldn't track down any escarole. So in my tradition of bastardizing Utica recipes I used some kale and Swiss chard.

Remove veins, wash thoroughly, boil about 10 minutes in a couple inches of salted water, as per usual with greens of this type.

Chop up some long frying peppers. I like to kind of julienne them.

I saute the peppers until they are thoroughly done, even a little color is OK. Next I chop up about a 1/4 pound of prosciutto. In this application the less expensive stuff is fine.

Prosciutto likewise gets sautéed until lightly browned, towards the end I throw in a couple cloves of garlic. Into the pan goes the fried peppers, the cooked greens, good olive oil, and seasoning.

Next throw in about a cup of stock, you could use water, but I like chicken stock. When this reduces slightly add enough bread crumbs to absorb the majority of the remaining liquid and finish with about a 1/3 cup of good Pecorino. A word on the bread crumbs, to stay true to form use some cheap brand of bread crumb. You know what I mean, the kind in the paper tube. I use Cora. Resist the urge to use hand crumbled artisan bread or some other nonsense, this is a Grandma dish and uses cheesy, salt of the earth ingredients.

Finally, we top with a little more bread crumb and cheese and brown under a broiler.

There you have it, Utica Greens. I like my greens spicy so normally I would have also added a jarred cherry pepper to the mix. I thought I had them in my fridge but did not, so this mess of greens was a bit tame for my tastes. Tasty none the less. Serve as a side dish, tossed with pasta, in an omelette, with crusty bread, or in my favorite manner- as the topping for a chicken cutlet sandwich.

If you have never partaken, I recommend you give a go at making these one night. They really are a very good way (albeit not the healthiest way)to get some greens in your diet. Maybe next we will conquer Utica's third renown delicacy, Tomato Pie. We shall see.

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  1. I had Utica Greens for the first time a few months ago. They were listed as an appetizer in a restaurant in North Syracuse. Delicious stuff. I tried making it when I got back, but it came out good, not great. A work in progress. On top of a chicken cutlet is an excellent idea.

  2. never heard of it but DAMN we are road testing this one baby!

  3. u killed both riggies and greens lol but hey keep working at it and im sure you'll get it right :-)

  4. Growing up just outside of Utica in a small mostly Italian village, we had escarole, or as we called it "ske-dawl" all the time. Usually my mom would just boil it down, then add it to sauteed garlic and olive oil. Sometimes she would add in some Canneloni beans and chicken broth, then it became "greens and beans", I haven't been back there in 20 years. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  5. Chesterfield's in East Utica are the best. You can get a pretty decent version at any of the Delmonico's around Upstate, NY


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