Vegetables

By Gwen Ashley Walters | JULY 12, 2009 | COOKING TIPS

Market-Greens

Meandering through the Portland Farmers Market, I spotted this stack of beautiful collard greens. The bug holes on the right only endeared it to me more. I mean, if the bugs won’t eat it, should I?

Growing up in West Texas, my mother’s garden overflowed with mustard greens, a bitter, curly-leafed green that I wasn’t particularly fond of. Years later, I tasted my first collard greens and I liked the flavor (less bitter) and texture (smoother) much better.

You don’t have to cook them Southern-style (to death, with ham or bacon fat and onions), but cooked this way they do go hand-in-hand with hot cornbread (or is it corn bread?)

Chiffonade

I cut a “V” just like I did here on Swiss chard, and roll the leaves into a cigar and then cut them into strips, just like I blabbed about here with basil, only with greens, I cut thick, 1-inch ribbons.

Collard greens are a staple in many southern  — especially soul food — restaurants, yet they generally don’t cut the tough stems out before cooking. For me, it’s paramount. I hate tough stems swimming in a pile of earthy greens, and even worse, I hate stringy stems — which is what happens when the greens are cooked long enough to soften them.

Leeks

Now we need a little onion for flavor. I used a leek for no other reason than I had one. Feel free to use whatever onion suits your fancy: white, yellow, red, scallions, whatever.

Of course you need some fat to saute the leeks and greens in. I keep a jar of bacon grease in the fridge for just such purposes.  Who doesn’t love bacon grease? (Don’t answer that if you are a vegetarian, please.)

Bacon-Grease

You could fry up some bacon strips, using the rendered fat for sauteing, and then crumble the bacon as a garnish for the greens. Heck, most folks just leave the bacon in the pot, simmering it right along with the greens. Me? I prefer adding it as a “crunch” topping.

Unlike Swiss chard and spinach, collard greens need a bit more cooking reach tenderness. And in the South, “a bit more” means hours. You don’t have to cook them that long, although most southern cooks I know cook them f-0-r-e-v-e-r. Food scientist and “culinary sleuth” Shirley Corriher (CookWise, BakeWise) says that extended cooking isn’t kind to the flavor of collard greens and other members of the Brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, turnips, etc.) And she’s from the South!

Cooking-Greens

Simmering collards in liquid is crucial for a silky texture.You can use water, or for more flavor, chicken stock or broth.

I’d show you a final picture of the cooked greens but I didn’t take one. Why? Because they’re ugly. Dull, army-green doesn’t make for a pretty picture, although I have to say that this picture honors the humble green as best as can be expected.

Even if cooked collard greens don’t win any beauty contests, they certainly do win as a delicious side dish, perfectly suited for any southern meal from pork chops to fried catfish. Don’t forget the slice of hot, buttered cornbread. Or is it corn bread?

Southern-Style Collard Greens

Serves 2, maybe 3 *

1 bunch collard greens
1 leek (or 1 cup chopped onion)
1 tablespoon bacon fat
4 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
Pinch of sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 (or more) teaspoon of hot pepper sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the stems out of each green leaf in a “V.” Roll the leaves into a cigar and cut into thick ribbons, about 1-inch thick. Dunk the greens in a water bath, drain, and spin dry in a salad spinner.

Cut the top off the leek. Cut the remaining part of the leek in half, lengthwise and rinse under cold running water, fanning the leek layers to remove any trapped dirt. Pat dry. Cut each half crosswise into 1/4-inch half-moons.

Melt the bacon fat in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and saute until just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the greens, tossing occasionally to wilt, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour in water or chicken broth and stir in pinch of sugar (the greens won’t be completely submerged). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more vinegar or hot sauce to your personal tastes. To serve, you can either portion out the greens in individual ramekins to include some of the pot likker (cooking liquid) or you can drain them and put them directly on the serving plate.

*If you plan to double this recipe, you don’t need to double all the ingredients, just the collard greens. For the remaining ingredients, use 1-1/2 times the amount instead of 2 times the amount.

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Comments

Olin Ashley | JULY 12, 2009

(Well, the kid’s at it again.)

It’s CORNBREAD! Gwen, as in one word.

Love,

Dad

chefgwen | JULY 12, 2009

Dad,

You’re just sore I like collard greens better than Mom’s mustard greens :)

PS Love you…thank you for reading my blog

trishatruly | SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

Mustard greens are in my opinion, far superior to the coarse collard greens of my youth. Your mother and I agree on that! Having said that, I am glad to see that dishes from the south and of my youth are not forgotten, even if they have been updated for today’s healthier lifestyles ( but what does Shirley Corriher know about good old soul food if this is the way she describes the greens I grew up eating anyway?)

Judy | NOVEMBER 26, 2009

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You said you did not post the cooked greens because they were not pretty, however, I think completed greens are worthy of being photographed.

[...] this summer I wrote about how to cook Swiss chard and collard greens. Now I’m tackling beans — green [...]

nirmala | FEBRUARY 20, 2011

People here in the Maldives chop it finely and make a fresh salad and eat,no cooking required. delcious with fresh onion rings and chillies etc.

hezekiah | NOVEMBER 16, 2011

Very good I must say I prefer fat back or smoked neck bones but very good recipe none the less

Gwen Ashley Walters | NOVEMBER 16, 2011

Fat back sounds good… what kind of neck bones are you thinking of?

Rebecca | NOVEMBER 25, 2011

Hey, I made collard greens for the first time yesterday for thanksgiving, based on this recipe with minor tweakage. They were unbelievably good, wow, I’m totally making them again… (I fried about six strips of bacon which I crumbled over the top to serve… fried the onion in some of the bacon fat…) nom nom nom!

Gwen Ashley Walters | NOVEMBER 29, 2011

Good for you, Rebecca! Really, I mean collard greens are good for you :) The bacon, eh, oh well… at least they were tasty!

Emily | NOVEMBER 03, 2012

I’m from the south and now living in up north. I’ve never made greens, but tonight I wanted to really feel like I was home. I decided to make your greens along with my fried chicken, mashed potatoes, my boyfriend’s grandma’s corn bread, and corn. It was delicious! Such a great recipe! I cooked several slices of bacon with the greens and saved a couple more to break over them before serving. Yum!

Gwen Ashley Walters | NOVEMBER 03, 2012

Emily, thanks so much for the kind words, but I’m guessing you had some great collard green to start with. And I’m sure the bacon didn’t hurt! Thanks for commenting!

Claire | NOVEMBER 20, 2012

Followed your steps, except I used smoked ham hocks I had already purchased, and it turned out great! Thanks for the instructions!

Paul | DECEMBER 28, 2012

You do not use that much water as the greens make their water. From the Lowcountry of South Carolina

Gwen Ashley Walters | DECEMBER 28, 2012

True, Paul, the greens do give off some water. But I like to have extra pot likker to dunk my cornbread in. Thanks for commenting.

Bill | FEBRUARY 16, 2013

I just had to throw my two cents in. As a vegan we can make it a great fake bacon by tossing spaghetti squash seeds from a fresh spaghetti squash into a little bit of olive oil and salt and roasting at 400° until they are brown you chop them up and I swear most people won’t know the difference between them and bacon. I can’t help you with bacon fat replacements because there aren’t any, but this one should help a great deal for those vegetarians and vegans out there. Peace.

Gwen Ashley Walters | FEBRUARY 16, 2013

Bill, that is a great tip, and I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d not told me. Next time I roast spaghetti squash, I’m keeping the seeds to try your trick! Thanks!

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