Monday, 25 July 2011

Collard Greens: A Side To Soak Up Some Good Ol' Southern Grease

I catered a party on Friday night, for the first time evah. It was a sit-down dinner for a friend and some of her work colleagues, and she wanted it to be a southern barbecue theme. I cooked up some pulled pork with a coffee chipotle rub and a tangy, tomato-based barbecue sauce, and some barbecued chicken with a marinating and basting sauce of, well, a shitload of butter, Worchestershire sauce, and lemon juice. I also did a vinaigrette-based potato salad, a creamier coleslaw, biscuits, hush puppies, and, wait for it, one green dish, the collards. To finish, I made some pecan brownies and the BEST brittle ever, Dr. Pepper peanut brittle. Oh my God, it was kill-ER. That one was definitely blog-worthy, but I'm going to wait until a nice, cooler day to make it again. I cooked the brittle last Thursday. Do you remember last Thursday? When it was so ridonculously hot that the sweat produced by getting up from the couch to get a glass of water required a cold shower rinse-off? Do you realize that I was standing over a pot of boiling sugar and butter with a candy thermometer on that Hades-like day?

Oh, the sacrifice!

Collard greens, pre-living daylights being cooked out of them.
Anyway, the greens. I've cooked collard greens a few times before, but I liked these the best. I'm pretty sure it's because I cooked the living daylights out of them, but no matter, it worked. They were a really wicked complement to the rest of the dinner, and I almost put the leftovers into my purse (in a container, obviously) when I left the party. But I checked myself, as I thought professional, seasoned caterers, such as myself, aren't supposed to take the leftovers back to their place.

Oh, the restraint!

Braised Collard Greens with Celery

1 big bunch of collard greens, tough stems removed and leaves sliced finely into ribbons   (this exact dish could also be made with kale, or chard, or even mustard greens - you might think spinach would also work, but it just won't - you really want to cook this for a while, and spinach will just not last that long - you could do a modified, quick saute with the same ingredients save for the chicken stock, but I'd leave the braising for the sturdier greens. Just, if I were you.)
1 large onion, sliced finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced
5 celery stalks, sliced finely on the diagonal     (I added the celery as a means of bulking up what I thought wouldn't be enough greens to feed everyone, but it ended up tasting really good, so I think you should do it too)
2 cups-ish of chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
A pat of butter or other neutral oil - I used soya    (you could also just use olive oil if it's what you have hanging about)

Saute the onion in the butter or oil, for a fairly long while. About 20 or 30 minutes, over medium heat, should do it. You're basically caramelizing the onion, to add a really robust first layer of flavour. Then add in your garlic, and saute it with the onions for about a minute or two. Toss in the ribboned collard greens, and the thinly sliced celery. Give it a good shake in the pan, and then add in about a cup of chicken stock. You want there to be a nice amount of liquid, this will really bump up the flavour and also make for almost a creamy consistency once it's finished. I cooked these for probably about two hours, over medium-low heat, adding more chicken stock as necessary. By the end, you don't want too much liquid left, but give them lots of time in lots of stock, and they'll get extremely delicious, trust. It takes a bit of time, but it's a low-maintenance dish. You don't have to stand over the stove the whole time, by any means.

Collards and celery, bathing together in stock. Ew, that sounds gross.
A lot of people toss in some kind of animal action to their collards:  ham, bacon, pancetta, smoked turkey. Feel free to do that here. I exercised restraint again here (amazing!) and just let the vegetables do the talking. There was more than enough lily-gilding in this particular meal. 

This will serve about 5 or 6 people as a side dish. If you're like me and you serve a zillion sides, it'll serve even more. Also, I forgot to take a picture of the finished bowl of collards, likely due to the fact that I was in a panicked state trying to figure out how to tell if a hush puppy was done or not and fending off hot oil splatters. But the dinner was a total success!


  1. way to go Carly! I've been really enjoying your posts and I'm going to try this one out. I have kale in my garden this year and have made a couple of different dishes with it - without much sucess - it tends to be bitter and kind of chewy. Maybe cooking the sh*t out of it and adding chicken broth, as per your recipe, will do the trick (or maybe I accidentally planted a decorative kale that's not meant for the dinnerplate!?!?) Anyways, keep writing - I'm reading (and eating, and even occaisionally cooking)!

  2. Thanks Caili! So happy that you're enjoying it. Yeah, try this one out with kale, it may do the trick...also make sure to slice it into fine ribbons, as that seems to help with the tenderizing somehow. Let me know how it goes! I hope that you're doing well.