Makes 6 to 8 servings
Dark, leafy greens are a powerhouse of nutrients, but few of us eat enough of them. We’d be wise to take a lesson from the South, where greens braised with a ham hock are a beloved and flavorful staple. This recipe from Carolyn Putnam makes a generous amount (about 7 cups) because if you’re going to spend the time cooking these greens, you might as well make it worth your while. They reheat well (and freeze well, too) so you can serve them again later in the week, or use them in something different like frittatas, bean soups or pasta.
4 bunches collard, mustard or turnip greens
¼ pound bacon, (about 3 to 4 slices)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1 small)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup water or chicken stock (page xxx)
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut stems off the greens. Discard any ugly leaves. Remove the thick middle vein from the rest of the leaves: Fold the leaves in half lengthwise with the outside facing you and slice off the vein with a sharp knife. Cut greens into dollar-size pieces (or leave them whole, if desired).
2. Place leaves in a large bowl set in the sink and fill with cold water. Swish leaves around in the water to remove dirt and debris. Lift them out (so the dirt stays behind) and place in a colander set in the sink. Rinse out the bowl, fill with water, and repeat the process until the water in the bowl ends up clean. Leave greens in the colander to drain (its fine to leave a little water on the leaves).
3. Stack the bacon strips and cut in half. Cut in half again lengthwise. Cut the strips across into ¼-inch dice (if you freeze the bacon for about 20 minutes first, it will be easier to cut).
4. Place a large (8-10 quart) saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. When hot, add the bacon and fry until it is almost crispy and has rendered its oil, about 4 minutes.
5. Leave the bacon in the pan and add the onions. Sauté until very soft and translucent (do not let them color. Reduce heat if necessary).
6. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add greens a handful at a time and toss with the bacon and onions. Cook for another minute or two. Add 1 cup water or chicken stock, cover and cook over medium heat until greens are tender, at least 45 minutes (there’s not harm in cooking them longer). Season with salt and pepper. Add Tabasco® to taste, if desired, or a splash of cider vinegar for a truly southern dish.
Southerners love their greens. Tough braising greens like kale, collards, mustard greens and turnip greens (the tops of turnips) are nutritious, plentiful and cheap all year round, particularly in the winter when other vegetables are scarce. After slowly braising for almost an hour, usually with a ham hock thrown in, the greens end up meltingly soft and infused with flavor. Feel free to mix and match, using a little of this and a little of that green.