Well. Here we are again. The new year approaches. And quickly. It’s time for fresh starts. Renewed energy. High hopes. Our annual New Year’s Day bash (back after taking a reluctant year off). And most importantly: Collard Greens.
And as my annual gift to you, the awesome people who live in my computer, I bring you once again my recipe for Collards, which, along with Black Eyed Peas and Pork (hog jowls, ham, bacon, whatever), are the law down here in the South. They’re supposed to bring you luck and fortune, which you can’t say you don’t want at least some of. And, bonus! these collards are crazy good. So go for it — make yourself a mess o’ greens and bring on the luck. Happy new year, friends.
Braised Collards of Deliciousness
– 4 bunches of collards, long stems and tough ribs removed
– 1/4 cup brown butter (recipe included)
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– 1/2 chipotle chile en adobo, all chopped up (to taste — it’s intended to add smoky, not spicy)
– 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– Pepper vinegar (recipe follows)
Wash the greens thoroughly in a whole lotta water (I fill my sink and wash them in there). Place the dripping wet leaves in a pot with a little water in it, add salt (to taste). Cook the greens for about 10 minutes (until they’re all wilted and reduced down quite a bit). Remove and place in a bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Heat 1/4 cup unsalted butter on medium-low until it turns brown and nutty. Strain off the milk-fat solids. (This is something I make a big batch of ahead-of-time and keep in the fridge.) Increase the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, pepper flakes and chipotle, stirring occasionally until the garlic is lightly colored and onion is soft. Add the greens, their reserved cooking water, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 30 minutes and taste again for salt (they can use a lot). You can continue cooking until the greens are “within an inch of their life” or you can stop here. The longer they cook, the better they”ll taste.
Serve with pepper vinegar on the side.
Recipe for Pepper Vinegar: 1 cup white vinegar + 4 oz serrano chiles. Drop the washed and dried chiles into a bottle that has been freshly washed in hot, soapy water. (A narrow neck bottle is preferable so the vinegar can be drizzled rather than poured, but it doesn’t really matter.) Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small pan, then transfer to the bottle (via a measuring cup or some other easy-pouring device). Let it sit uncapped until cool. The peppers will absorb some of the vinegar. Add more vinegar to fill the bottle, then cap and set aside in the cupboard. The vinegar will be best if you make this ahead. But you can speed the process by including one pepper sliced into “coins.” Plus, the discs look cool floating around all the whole peppers.
(Thanks to Deborah Madison for the original base recipe, and especially for the brown butter secret. You have been helping me for many years to make people’s New Years just that much luckier and fortunier.)