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The Foodist: The Essential Greens Recipes

The Foodist: The Essential Greens Recipes
The Foodist: The Essential Greens Recipes

Braised Collard Greens

Tender, silky, and flavorful collard greens require a long cook time with traditional flavor enhancers to create savory, smoky flavor and tenderness. Starting with ham hocks allowed us to create the richly flavorful broth known as pot liquor or pot likker.

Boiling the hocks for 45 minutes, or until the water turned slightly opaque, ensured that the pork’s fat and gelatin had diffused into the water, imparting its rich smoky flavor and body. Removing the stem and central vein from the collards helped us temper glucosinolates, bitter-tasting compounds that are naturally occurring in collards and other leafy greens.

Cooking the collards for an extended period of time over high heat made them silky, tender, and richly flavorful, consistent with tradition. This recipe is applicable to all greens, with slight modifications.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Select collards that are vibrant green; avoid those that are wilted or yellow. If you can’t find two 12-ounce ham hocks, it’s fine to buy one larger and one smaller as long as they total about 24 ounces. Use a Dutch oven with a capacity of at least 7¼ quarts.

We like to serve these collards with hot sauce, as well as cornbread for dunking or crumbling into the pot liquor.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 12 cups water, divided
  • 2 (12-ounce) smoked ham hocks, rinsed
  • 2 pounds collard greens (or any green)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 8 cups water and ham hocks. Increase heat to high, cover, and bring to boil. Continue to boil, covered, until water has turned slightly opaque and is reduced by about half, about 45 minutes. While ham hocks cook, prepare collards.
  3. Using sharp knife, remove stem and central vein from each leaf. Stack 4 or 5 leaves, roll lengthwise, and slice roll crosswise to create ½-inch ribbons. Repeat with remaining collards. Transfer ribbons to large bowl and cover with cool water. Swish with your hand to dislodge grit. Repeat with fresh water, as needed, until grit no longer appears in bottom of bowl. Remove collards from water and set aside.
  4. Add collards, remaining 4 cups water, broth, pepper, and cayenne to pot (it will be full) and cover. Cook until collards wilt, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir well. Cover and continue to boil, turning ham hocks and stirring halfway through cooking, until collards are very tender, about 1½ hours. (If liquid is more than 2 inches deep at this point, continue to cook, uncovered, until liquid has reduced to about 1 inch, about 30 minutes longer. If liquid is less than 1 inch deep, add enough water to measure 1 inch.)
  5. Transfer hocks to cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove meat from bones. Chop meat and stir into collards; discard skin and bones. Season collards with salt to taste, and serve.

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