It’s been almost a year since I became a convert to collard greens. I love most greens and I grow a big kitchen bed of multi-colored Swiss chard and lacinato kale along with salad greens but collards always seemed more bitter than I could accept. Then Susan Qullio of Spoonful Catering made a birthday dinner for me of perfectly roasted duck accompanied by collard greens, soppy with duck drippings, garnished with fresh grapefruit and topped with cracklins. No looking back, only trying to come up with recipes for collards that come near the richness and complexity of Susie’s.
Collards are often braised in a meaty stock, usually involving a slowly simmered, smoked ham hock. I’m a huge fan of great stocks, they make all the difference between a good recipe and an extraordinary dish, but the two steps doubled the time it takes to get to eating, and tonight I was in a hurry. I grabbed a container of roasted chicken stock from the freezer and was ready to cook.
Simmering collard greens in a lightly sweetened braising liquid cuts their bitterness. Tonight’s recipe combines the most familiar flavors – bacon replacing the ham, onions, garlic and hot peppers. I served the greens with sausage along side cheddar grits, but this recipe would be equally fine complemented by other creamy companions – polenta, or stirred with 2 cups of big tender white beans, or a cheesy potato gratin. Or skip the sausage and serve along side slow-roasted duck, pork or chicken, and corn bread.
Always make plenty of a good thing so you have leftovers. Next time I have to remember to buy two bundles of collard greens – it only takes a little time need to wash and slice a second bunch. Save any remaining cooked greens in their liquid (called the liquor or potlikker), these sturdy greens easily reheat.
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced (you can double or triple this if you want a garlicky side dish)
2 cups good stock or broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 # collard greens, stems removed, (about 6c)
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes (optional)
4 links hot turkey or pork Italian Sausage, browned and sliced
Fresh collard greens tend to be gritty, make sure to rinse them in s basin with plenty of water, I do a double rinse or triple rinse.
Chiffonade is a French technique that means thinly slicing an herb or a leafy vegetable into strands or ribbons. To make a chiffonade of collard greens, stack the washed and drained leaves one on top of the other and roll them tightly into a cylinder. Using a chef’s knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into thin strips. Set aside.
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside. Add chopped onion and garlic to drippings in pan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until translucent, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low. Stir in crumbled bacon, sugar and vinegar to bubble and caramelize.
Add 2 cups of stock. Stir in greens. I like to add a shot of hot sauce and/or a 1t of dried red pepper flakes. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, checking periodically to make sure there is still liquid at the bottom (if needed add an extra 1/4c of broth) and you definitely want that liquor. Cook for 30 minutes then place browned sliced sausage on top, and simmer an additional 15 minutes to meld the flavors, until greens are tender and dark, and sausages are heated through. Check seasonings – add salt, pepper and/or extra hot sauce as desired.
Serve very hot in low bowls, with a big ladle full of grits, topped with shaved Parmesan.