Tuesday, November 18, 2008


For my latest cooking class, we tackled Carolina Low Country cuisine, including collard greens, which are a pan-Southern tradition, not just Low Country. Collards are a cole crop, with huge leaves that look like overgrown Chinese broccoli (gai lan) leaves. They're a good starter green for most people because they are smooth leaved, stay solid when cooked, and are naturally sweet. I prefer turnip greens which are hairy leaved, are less solid, and are decidedly more bitter. As with most greens, I think collards have the best flavor once they've seen a frost or two.

Instructions for prepping collards greens along with photos are at the end of this post.

I typically cook collard greens one of two ways. First, at the restaurant, we finely slice them, blanch them for about a minute or two, until they become very bright green, and then sauté them very quickly in olive oil and garlic, or in bacon grease with garlic. This is a decidedly new-fangled way of cooking them that would probably cause my grandmother fits were she alive.

At home and for the cooking class, I cook them in the classic Southern tradition with smoked pork. In a large pot, bring a couple of inches of water to the boil with your favorite smoked pork product. I used slab bacon on Sunday, but I would have used a ham hock or neck bones if I had them in the fridge. Let the water cook with the meat in it for 20 minutes or so to flavor it, then add the collards and cook to your liking.

I think an hour is the mandatory minimum, but they're certainly edible after ten minutes or so. When asked on Sunday how I knew that the collards weren't ready, I replied, "They don't taste like bacon yet!" Add a little salt in the beginning and then season again just before serving. Don't oversalt in the beginning because the braising liquid will reduce while cooking.

As for quantities needed, figure on one large leaf per person, unless you're inviting me. Figure on four or five for me.

Grasp the collard leaf as in the picture in preparation for ripping out the central rib, which is too tough to eat.

Rip the rib from the leaf.

Here you see the rib separated from a collard leaf. Give the ribs to the hogs, chickens, compost pile, or use them in the stock pot.

Stack the deribbed collard leaves one on top of the other. Slice the stack of collard leaves into halves, straight through where the rib used to be.

Slice the halved collard leaves into fourths, so that you can stack the piles of fourths for the next step.

Slice the collards into whatever size you like. Here, they're being cut en chiffonade, in thin strips.

1 comment:

  1. Ed,

    Your collard greens were wonderful. I stole a small sample from my wife's plate when we visited last night. The rest of the meal was stellar too.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting there. In case you don't get back there to see the response to your comment, I've included it below:

    Thanks for a GREAT dinner. It was completely awesome! I had the mixed grill and the venison blueberry sausage left me nearly speechless… I just kept saying “wow” over and over again.

    What a great place! I can’t wait to come up with an excuse for another trip to Winchester. I’ll definitely be heading to One Block West again when that happens.

    Oh, and by the way, I gave you a 5/5 review on Yelp also.