Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The BEST Collard Greens EVER !

I promise, they are the BEST !

Honestly, I'm getting to the ribollita soon...but first, I have to talk about collard greens.

When I went to repost my New Years entry about black eyed peas today, I realized I had never finished the blog about the collard greens - and these definitely needed to join the blog. How they came about is sort of a funny story (aren't most of them ? I swear I can't do anything normal) - and of course, one I wanted to share. Such is the life of your intrepid blogger :)

Collard greens, for those who aren't familiar with them, are a dark green leafy vegetable related to cabbage, but tasting a little more spinach-like. (Collards are similar to kale - which is coming up in that ribollita post !). The leaves are pretty sturdy and stand up to a good amount of cooking; they are popular in the South as well as in Africa and South America. Collards, along with black eyed peas and cornbread are considered "good luck" foods eaten at New Years because all three resemble various sorts of money - start the New Year rolling in the stuff and it will come to you all year ! (that's the thought, anyway...).

These delicious greens used to always be the domain of the other foodie-in-residence here. I can't remember where we first had them - I know the local BBQ joint (Blue Ribbon) does a stellar job with them, and at some point we decided they had to be part of our own BBQ feasts. One day whilst such a feast was in the works my co-conspirator was suddenly called away - leaving me to prepare the collards. Having never made them on my own, I decided to check a few sources first...and I ended up with the infamous Paula Deen. (This was before she got herself in trouble, of course). I figured Paula would definitely know a little somethin' about greens; the challenge would be to use things found in my own kitchen and suited to my own style of cooking. Her recipe called for something called "House Seasoning", which I reasoned was some sort of seasoned salt - not something I would have on hand. I did have plenty of Knorr's Chicken Bouillon cubes, though (the only ones I will use; as long as you adjust for the salt they make a perfectly fine stock) - and I also had a little jar of Montreal Steak Seasoning, the hot variety (my sister having purchased it in error and bequeathed to me; I'd never even opened it. ) I looked at the side of the jar, and sure enough this stuff was basically...seasoned salt. (It's very easy to make your own Montreal Steak Seasoning, there are recipes all over the intranet...I found a nice one here )  Okay, I could definitely work with this...and the rest of the recipe I really, really liked. Paula's method of making the flavorful cooking liquid first, then taking the tough part of the stem off and chopping the leaves ("chiffonade", in fancy cookery terms) before adding them meant I wouldn't need to cook the greens to death and they'd taste like greens, not mush. And adding the little bit of butter would get the flavor to stick to the leaves....yeah, I was all over this. So I dove in and crossed my fingers....and after the first bite, it was decreed that henceforth I would be in charge of cooking all collard greens - a position I happily accepted, because these really were the best collard greens EVER.

One other item to discuss before I get to the goods - smoked meat. The traditional meat to use with collard greens would be ham hocks, and indeed that is what Paula Deen calls for in her original recipe. While I love ham hocks, for some reason with these greens I love smoked turkey parts even more - something about the richness of poultry fat just enhances everything else going on here. My preference is to used smoked turkey tails, when I can find them at my local supermarket  (turkeys store a surprising amount of fat in their tails) - and yes, they really do have them occasionally at Stop + Shop. Easier to find are the smoked drumsticks or wings; my photo below is of a wild turkey drumstick that we smoked ourselves, because we really are that awesome. Lacking smoked turkey of any kind, you can definitely (and quite successfully) use ham hocks.

Recipe below photos - enjoy !

home-smoked wild turkey...oh yeah baby !  

wash the greens well

cut off the excess stem



and chop !

Collard Greens
based on a Paula Deen recipe - original here

2 smoked turkey tails OR 1 smoked turkey drumstick OR wing OR a ham  hock
2 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning, hot  (see above)
2 tsp kosher salt 
2 Knorr's Chicken boullion cubes (or substitute chicken stock - see below)
1 large bunch collard greens
1 tablespoon butter
Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce), for serving
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add smoked meat and seasonings. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour. (If not using the Knorr's, use 1 quart chicken stock and 1 quart water).

Wash the collard greens thoroughly. Remove the large stems that run down the center of the large leaves (a small knife helps quite a bit - see photo below. No need to stem the smaller leaves). Stack 6 to 8 leaves on top of one another, roll up, and slice into 1/2 to 1-ince thick slices. Place greens in pot with meat and add butter. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with hot sauce, as a side dish to any sort of BBQ . Usually a little of the liquid is included with the greens while serving; some Southerners actually serve the cooking liquid (called "pot liquor") separately as a soup course...not really my thing, though it is perfectly tasty.


  1. Karen, Pictsweet sells bagged chopped frozen collards that cook up beautifully and save more than enough time to make up for any (imagined, IMO) loss of quality. Tho the tender greens like spinach lose all their body in freezing, the frozen non-tenders like collards don't turn to mush in cooking. I consider them one of the nicer things to come on the market in recent times.

  2. P.S. While I never heard of anyone serving it as a soup course, my Texas grandmother (and mother, and I now) always put out little individual bowls for the greens, so people could take plenty of the delicious "pot likker" to sop up with their cornbread. It's like dessert.