I'm curious about collard greens. I just received my first package from a CSA I recently joined, and received a large bunch of collards. Most of the recipes I've seen are of the Pot O' Greens variety, which some people swear by - and I may end up trying. However, I am really curious, is there a reason why collards are usually cooked this way, as opposed to say, sautéing or steaming? What does a braise bring to the party that other methods don't?
Del, congratulations on your fresh vegetables and CSA! The answer to your question is really quite simple. Collards are tough and leathery greens; they may be the heaviest and thickest greens we know how to cook. They simply have to cook for longer times, with more liquid, in order to be tender. So nearly every classic recipe for collards will call for braising, simmering, or baking for an extended period of time.
This is in contrast to more tender greens like spinach or even kale, which will break down quickly when sautéed or steamed. But this is also what makes collards so delicious: they hold their shape and chewy texture even after long cooking with bacon, broth, and other delicious things.
If you like your greens with more bite, though, try experimenting with steaming or frying them; who knows? You may find a new way of cooking them.
Here are some posts on collard greens. One of our favorite recipes is on top; old-fashioned braised collard greens with bacon, spicy and smoky over rice, is one of our favorite meals.
(Images: Faith Durand)