My parents are both from the Utica, NY area. I’ve been visiting my whole life, reveling in the area’s unique epicurean offerings. One favorite is half-moon cookies, which are also known as “black and whites”. They are a cakey chocolate cookie, topped with fudgy chocolate frosting on one side and fluffy vanilla frosting on the other.
My other favorite is greens. Now, in the South they make collard greens, which I don’t really care for. But these are a whole different animal. Since they’re such a family favorite, they’ve become a holiday staple. We do our best to recreate them at home. This Christmas, my brother is making them, and I’m going to document the whole process so that you can make them, too.
1 large escarole (or 2 small heads)
4 slices prosciutto (thinly cut and chopped)
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a jar of hot cherry peppers (or 15 slices- chopped)
1/2 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1/4 cup romano cheese grating cheese
1/4 cup chicken broth
Start by washing the escarole in a (clean) sink full of water. Then cook it in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes, and strain with a colander.
While the escarole is in the colander, add the olive oil to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and sauté the garlic and ham for about 2 minutes before adding the peppers. Cook for about a minute, then add the escarole, most of the breadcrumbs, and most of the cheese. Stir thoroughly.
Now add the broth and cook for about 10 minutes. The escarole will be tender and most of the broth will have evaporated. Season with salt if needed and transfer to a baking dish. Pour remaining cheese and breadcrumbs on top, then broil for about 7 minutes, when the top will be nicely browned.
Of course, like most regional cuisines, the best greens come from Utica’s restaurants. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to ask the locals; they’ll point you in the direction of the best tray in town!