Our Cook In Residence, Amethyst Ganaway, gives the classic a boost of ocean flavor via smoked herring and crayfish powder.
While I love a good braising liquid, sometimes called “potlikka,” made from my greens and a piece of smoked turkey or pork, I’ve found that using smoked fish adds a much deeper flavor than the meat. I believe I first saw the use of smoked fish with greens from Gullah chef BJ Dennis years ago, and I’ve been on a quest since then to learn more about the ways to use smoked fish and dried seafood with greens.
Where Chef BJ and I are from, using seafood as a flavor agent (preserved or not) is fairly common, because of our connections to West African foodways and cultures from enslavement in the Carolinas. Seafood is also relatively abundant along the coast, so it was easy to access and cook. But the heat and humidity made it difficult to keep that fresh seafood fresh for long, so the tradition of preserving some of it only made sense.
I’ve come to find many, many wonderful traditional West African dishes spanning the countries that use seafood to add both protein and umami to dishes. Here, I use onion and tomato, commonly found with braised greens, and I add in crayfish powder or dried shrimp (you can find this at your local African or Caribbean market or online) and smoked herring to lend umami to the dish. Add heat and a splash of vinegar to round it all out. This isn’t a new way to prepare greens for people around the world, but hopefully it becomes a staple in your kitchen.