Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon
Collard greens are a bit elusive to certain cultures… I know they were to me for a very long time. I was about 26 when I first had traditionally made collards. They were so freakin’ good that I was immediately asking for the recipe. Smoked turkey wings, every powdered spice in your cabinet, hot sauce, all the salt you have on hand, water and the greens, boiled for over an hour. Got it. Since then, I’ve made them myself with some success and have had them a few other places as well. But as much as I learned to like collard greens, I rarely made them because it was always an event to prepare and cook them, just for a side dish. So, I came up with my version here.
My version of collard greens, still follows the original recipe for the most part; except that my recipe is done in about 15-20 minutes start to finish. Bacon takes the place of smoked meats, fresh ingredients over powders and sriracha over a more standard hot sauce. Most importantly though is that these greens get sautéed instead of boiled, which keeps them a nice dark green and leaves them with more texture then their boiled cousins. If you’ve never tried collard greens before then here’s your chance to add a new, inexpensive, healthy green into your weeknight repertoire.
1 Bunch Collard Greens
1 Shallot Sliced
3 Cloves Garlic Sliced
2-3 Strips Bacon diced
2 Tbs Sriracha or Cholula
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
1/4 Cup Water
Salt and Pepper
Try to buy collard bunches with large dark leaves. The larger the leaves the less stems in the bunch, thus less work when it comes to preparing them. Large leaves are also great to use for wraps in place of tortillas or pitas.
When it comes to preparing collard greens, it’s easier to strip the leaf right off the stem by hand, then taking the time to cut them out individually. Simply grip the end of the stem firmly and then use your other hand to wrap around the leaf at the same end and strip the leaf off. If you break some stems along the way it’s fine, just go back when you’re done and clean them up later.
Stack 3 to 4 leaves together and cut them in half vertically. Then stack the halves together and roll them all together like a cigar. Hold them firmly and make .25” cuts the whole way. Wash thoroughly and make sure they are dry before adding to the pan. A salad spinner works best if you have one.
Use a large pot to cook the greens. The collards will reduce significantly after they are cooked, but initially will need a lot of space. Heat the pot on a medium setting and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until crisp and remove with a slotted spoon. Leave the bacon fat in and add the red pepper flakes and shallots. After about 2-3 minutes add the garlic with some salt and pepper.
After another minute add the collard green in handfuls to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to stir and flip the greens around so that the shallots and garlic are not sitting on the bottom, otherwise they will burn fast. Keep stirring until the greens are shinny and reduce down some, this should only take about 2 minutes. Add the water, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a medium-low. Adding the lid will keep the steam in the pot and cook the greens evenly.
After 5-6 minutes check on the collards. They should be fully reduced and the water gone. If not, keep cooking until the water is fully evaporated. Add the sriracha and stir into the greens. Taste for seasoning and make any adjustments before taking off the heat.
Serve in a bowl or plate immediately, topping with the reserved bacon.