Southern Collard Greens
A few years ago, while on a work trip in San Francisco, I visited a really cool restaurant that used to be a place bootleggers would frequent to drink, gamble, and enjoy themselves back in the day. The food and atmosphere were great...but there was one thing this hip joint just didn't master: the collard greens. After taking a bite of the firm, bitter side of greens, I asked the server how the chef had prepared them. He replied "just a quick saute!" My Texan self was shocked that someone would do that, but I had plenty of chicken fried steak on my plate to keep me happy. I thanked him and asked for the dessert menu, then devoured a peach cobbler that was incredible.
That's when I realized I needed to cook them myself in order to have the recipe mastered before questioning a chef. Mr. Man had always been fond of turnip greens over others, and was a little reluctant to try my collards when I first approached him about my supper plans upon my return to Dallas. He asked where the hamhock was when I started making them without meat, and after a few vegetarian versions, I saw what he meant: in order to have great collard greens there should be a hint of smokiness. I hope this recipe makes you as happy as it does us!
2 large bunches of collard greens, stems removed and cut into 2 inch pieces after washing
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth (or water)
4 pieces turkey bacon, chopped (or regular bacon, if you are so inclined)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
First, pick your collards. These are the remaining winter crop, and they're just lovely.
Wash, wash, wash...even if you got them from a grocery or farmers market. They aren't quite as dirt-friendly as leeks, but there are many crevasses the soil likes to hide in these little gems.
Saute your onion, garlic, and bacon with a tablespoon of olive oil and a big pinch of salt on low heat. The goal isn't to get the bacon crispy; it'll cook just fine during the collard-wilting hours. This step should take about 10 minutes, to make sure everything is wilting nicely.
Turn up the heat and deglaze your pot with about 1/4 cup of the chicken broth. (Or water, if you're not using the broth.) Scrape up the flavorful brown bits with a wooden spoon and let the broth evaporate slightly. (About 1 tbsp should remain.)
Add the collards and another large pinch of salt. Carefully incorporate them into the pot, stirring the onion/garlic/bacon mixture into the greens. Pour the rest of the broth over the greens, pressing the greens down with a spoon to make sure they're submerged. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
Cover, reduce to a low simmer, and enjoy your 3 hours before the greens are ready!
Serve alongside anything you fancy, as long as the other menu items won't interfere with the tender, delicious, slightly bitter but oh-so-smoky greens. Let me know how you enjoy this recipe!
Till next time,
Dallas Farmer Gal