The second leafy green I’m featuring on my Thursday series is collard greens. They are a Southern standard. They fit the bill next to the likes of fried chicken and blackened catfish like none other. Collards are a great source of vitamins C and K and soluble fiber.
Although collards can be eaten without the low-and-slow process of braising them, this is most typical because it helps break down the tough stalks of these resilient greens while imparting lots of flavor! I started mine with pancetta instead of bacon and also added some chili flakes to impart some heat. This dish was very easy to prepare and the results were delicious. They featured now-tender greens with a nice savory and meaty undertone from the pancetta and chicken broth.
I served this next to some grilled pork chops, but it would compliment a variety of dishes. Being Southern is not a requirement. Just beware about how often and how much you salt these greens. They may taste bland if you don’t season them with enough salt, but if you dare to overseason them, when the mixture reduces you will end up with salty collards. Be reasonable. You can always add more salt later.
Braised Collard Greens
Serves 2 to 4 as a side (depending on serving size)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce finely diced pancetta
1 small red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red chili flakes
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 bunch collard greens, washed, trimmed, and sliced into 1-inch crosswise strips (my bunch weighed about 11 ounces)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook for a few minutes until the fat begins to render and the meat starts to crisp. Add the onion and continue to cook until softened, a few more minutes.
Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic (lower the heat a bit if necessary). Deglaze the pan with a splash or two of the broth, scrapping the bottom to make sure any browned up bits of pancetta and onion are released.
Add the greens to the pot along with the remaining chicken broth, red wine vinegar, and sugar, stirring to make sure everything is well-coated. The greens will begin to wilt. Season with salt and pepper (you can season more throughout the cooking process as needed–be careful not to oversalt, as the greens can get salty as the mixture reduces).
When the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cover the pot. Continue to cook, covered, for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the greens are tender (test the center stalky part). Adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot.