Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's Time to Cook a Mess O' Greens, Southern-Style Collards That Is.

raw greens
From left to right: red kale, mustard greens, collards, curly kale.

I have a wonderful relationship with collards. It wasn't always that way.

Having grown up in Rhode Island, I had never even seen collards until I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in my mid-20s. Our first meeting wasn't pretty, but I decided to give them a second chance, and now, they're my constant companion from December through April when they're at their peak.

Today I find myself saying things like, "I'm gonna make a mess o' greens this weekend," and "Honey, gimme some of that cornbread for this here pot likker!" I told you we have a wonderful relationship.

Whether you love greens or are still skeptical, why not skedaddle over to NPR's "Kitchen Window" where you'll find my latest piece, "Eating O' The Greens. Beyond Southern Side Dishes." You'll learn all about Southern greens and get four delicious recipes.

Southern-Style Greens

Southern-Style Greens: Collard Greens with Ham Hock

This traditional method of cooking greens uses ham hock, a cut of meat from the hog's lower leg, which is typically smoked or cured, to flavor the greens. It's available at butcher shops as well as most major supermarkets.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Printable recipe.

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 smoked ham hock, about 3/4 pound
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 pounds collard greens, about 3 large bunches, rinsed and drained, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch strips
6 to 7 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Hot sauce, to taste

1. In a Dutch oven or other large, deep pot over medium heat, warm oil. Add onions and ham hock, and saute 8 to 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until onions are browned and wilted. Add collards, broth, vinegar, salt and black pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce. Stir well. Cover and bring to a low rolling boil. Partially cover and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the collards are soft and pale green. If you like them really soft, then cook them longer, until desired consistency is reached. Taste them, and season with salt and black pepper, as desired. Ladle some of the liquid over the collards before serving. And keep the hot sauce bottle on the table.

Southern-Style Greens: Collards with Bacon

This is also a Southern-style greens recipe that uses only bacon instead of ham hock. It tastes slightly saltier and less overtly meaty than using ham hock.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

4 strips bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Several dashes hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 pounds collard greens, stems removed, sliced into 1-inch wide strips

1. Place bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until browned around the edges but still pink in the middle. Add the onions and cook until browned and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add broth, vinegar, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and stir well. Bring to a rolling boil. Add collards, stirring well. Reduce to low, stirring occasionally, until collards are tender and pale green. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with juices spooned on top and the hot sauce bottle on the table.