Recipe: Easy Braised Collard Greens with Bacon

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Collard greens with bacon are just so good that I couldn't resist the heavy bundles of fresh collards piled high at the produce stand this week. And even though we just gave you a recipe for rappini I had to share this too.

Collards are related to the cabbage, along with kale, turnip greens and mustard greens - all of which can be substituted for one another in a braised recipe like this. Greens with bacon or ham are a Southern classic - spicy, smoky and tender in a savory broth.

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Collard greens and their spreading leathery leaves can feel unwieldy at first. I used to work in a restaurant where we prepared masses of collards every night, and the prep cooks showed me how to fold each leaf in half and slit the tough rib away with the point of my knife. Stack up these halved leaves, roll them tightly, cut the roll in half longwise, then chiffonade into thin ribbons.

This recipe calls for a lot of chopping and dicing, but it's easy from there and the leftovers keep beautifully. Serve over rice for a great weeknight dinner.

Braised Collard Greens

serves 4

1 bunch collard greens (usually 1 1/2 - 2 pounds)
10 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 pound bacon
1/2 cup wine, anything will do here
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper, optional

Cut and trim the tough stems away from the collard leaves. Stack the leaves, roll tightly and slice into ribbons. Wash the ribbons thoroughly and set aside to drain. Dice the onion and the garlic. (This is a lot of garlic, I realize - use less if you prefer.)

Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large deep pot over medium heat and add the red pepper flakes and bacon. Cook until the fat renders out and the bacon is getting crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon.

Add the onion and garlic and turn the heat to low. Cook them slowly in the bacon fat, stirring frequently, until soft and golden. This should take at least 10 minutes. Turn the heat lower if they begin to darken.

Add the collard greens and bacon, stirring until wilted. Pour in the wine and chicken broth and season with a little salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer, cover, and cook for as long as it takes to reach the tenderness you prefer. I like soft, tender greens with just a slight bite, which took about 30 minutes over low.

When finished you can remove the lid to let the pot liquor evaporate more, or not - it's delicious poured over rice. Season if necessary with more salt, pepper, and a smoky touch of chipotle.

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