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Collard greens

I recently learned how to make collard greens. I will admit to being very nervous about approaching this, since it’s such a cultural staple in southern cooking; southern cooking is definitely not something I grew up with. In fact, prior to trying to make them myself, I had only eaten collard greens once, maybe twice.

But I was highly motivated. My mother cooked spinach often when I was growing up, and it was awful: overcooked, just a lump of green wilted stuff with all of the flavor and texture boiled out of it. It put me off from eating spinach well into my adult life, and I had no interest in trying other greens. Also, let’s face it: kale, like spinach, is very healthy, but it tastes terrible. Collard greens aren’t any better on their own, but in order for something to become that much of a cultural tradition, clearly someone figured out how to make them into something that people actually wanted to eat.

As I often do when researching a recipe, I find a half-dozen recipes from a variety of sources, and compare and contrast them. For something sounding as generic as “collard greens,” I expected to find a wide variety of approaches. But what I found was the opposite: there is a remarkable consensus on how to prepare them in the Southern tradition. There were plenty of variations, no doubt, but at the heart of all of them was the same basic philosophy: drown them in flavor. Brown up some smoky meat. Saute some aromatic vegetables. Throw in some spices. Let it simmer for a long time to soften up the greens and intermingle all of the flavors. I added one more twist: a bit of flour, browned, to create a “brown roux” that will bump up the flavor a bit more while also slightly thickening the potlikker.

I am a huge fan of collard greens now — 100% sold. I will admit that the greens themselves are just sort of along for the ride while everything else is doing the hard work of creating amazing flavor. But it is great stuff.

Peace, love, and biscuits,


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