Sunday, December 29, 2013

Utica Greens and Beans – Finding Good Fortune in Upstate New York

As many of you hardcore foodies know, there’s a southern tradition of eating beans and greens on New Year’s Day to help bring good fortune in the coming year. 

By eating “poor” the first day of the year, you supposedly ensure prosperity and good luck the rest of the year. I think I speak for all superstitious, Italian-Americas when I say, that totally makes sense.

Whether you believe in such things or not, you should still try this year’s edible good luck charm, Utica Greens. This delicious Upstate New York vegetable casserole comes in many forms, but usually contains some combination of bitter greens, usually escarole, pancetta or prosciutto, hot fresh or pickled peppers, and bread crumbs.

I’m adding some cranberry beans, so you all get rich in 2014, but that’s totally fine since the locals often add chunks of potatoes, and once you start doing things like that, all bets are off. Whether side dish or main course, this is a perfect winter vegetable magnet, and I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy, Happy New Year, and most of all, good fortune!

Ingredients for 6 side dish servings:
2 heads escarole
2 tbsp olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or prosciutto, diced (You can drain some of the rendered fat if it looks like it's going to be too much. You want about 2 tablespoons total rendered fat pancetta in the casserole)
handful of sliced fresh hot peppers, or jarred pickled peppers
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
12 ounce can cooked cranberry beans, or Cannellini beans, butter beans, white beans, etc., optional
salt and black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fine plain bread crumbs, plus more for the top
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
drizzle top with more olive oil


Charlotte said...

Hi Chef John,
I was going through your bread videos and I couldn't find one for pretzels. Could you please make a video for soft pretzels? Thank you.


Foodfanataholic said...

As alway, I enjoy your blog. Having lived on Utica for almost 30 years I will give you our take. We also put onions on occasion. We always use fresh bread crumbs giving the greens little clumps of flavor bursts. They are usually made with cherry peppers but you can do sweet bell peppers to. There is a second version made with potatoes and salami as well. Any way you make them they are delicious.

Unknown said...

I know this is special and I want it in my table. Love to try this at home. My wife loves to cook and this recipe of yours is another recipe that add up a love. Thanks for sharing! - healthy takeaway

Steven said...

What size skillet is that?

FSB said...

Thank the Chef for the blog... we don't have to slog thru the YouTube commentary drivel and slime.

Unknown said...

Though its a bit late for this year, I leave this word of warning for those making this dish "for luck": Do NOT alter the recipe! I substituted Swiss Chard for the Escarole, Bacon for the pancetta, and skipped the peppers when I made this last night. Tasted wonderful, but then woke up this morning only to discover our van was stolen!

I suspect the Chard--should have gone with Kale!

Christa Fine said...

I cannot believe I found this! I'm so excited. Have travelled to Utica several dozen times and I love their Greens! Don't know anyone that makes them like this. The recipe has always been a mystery to me! I can't wait to try this. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

Can I substitute curly endive for the escarole? The stores in my area don't have escarole.

Chef John said...