Lemons Lemons are one of my favorite flavor enhancers but you need to be careful of the white pith. If you cook the pith, it turns very bitter. Cooking the rind or pulp is fine but never use the pith or seeds. I remember discovering this disturbing fact cooking chicken piccata for the first time. I thought I could enhance the flavor by cooking lemon slices in the sauce but instead I got a bitter taste I couldn't correct with sugar.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
Simmering on low for hours, collard greens take planning and patience. But, the results are well worth the wait! Part of the time is for tenderizing this leathery leaf but long a simmer also allow the greens to absorb the flavors of pork, chicken stock, garlic, onions and vinegar. What you end up with is a harmonized dish with depth of flavor that's hard to get when cooking quickly.
Start with a fresh collard green. It should be dark green and vibrant. Clean your greens as you would any vegetable by rinsing it in your sink. What you are looking to do is remove dirt, bugs and any other foreign materials. No need to scrub the leaves. You can even soak them in a bath but I don't have the time for that lengthy process, nor do I want to waste the copious amounts of water as a California native.
Remove the ribs from the collard greens as they tend to be tough. However, it's really a personal choice. Some people leave them in but I find it often leads to some fibrous stems that are tough to chew. It's really easy to remove them. Just fold them in half and cut the stem out with one slice of the knife. The process might take a minute or two per bunch. Once the ribs are removed, roll up the green width wise and slices one to one and a half inch slices.
While I'm cutting up the greens, I like to get the bacon and onions started. Heat a dutch oven or a pot with a cover on medium heat and add the bacon. Cook till the bacon is crispy and then add the onions and shallots. Cook till translucent and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute and then add the greens.
Mix a handful of greens with the onion and bacon and sauté. Let each batch wilt slightly before adding more. If find this makes it easier to mix everything instead of throwing the entire batch of greens in at once.
Once the greens are wilted, add the rest of the ingredients including the smoked ham shank. Ask your butcher to quarter the ham shank so it breaks down faster and the flavor from the bone marrow is released. If you have some leftover ham or even a ham hock, you can substitute. I prefer the shank over the hock simply because it has more meat.
I like to simmer half the time with the lid on and the other half with it off. With the cover, the greens and shank break down faster. When the top is removed, the liquid is concentrated through the process of evaporation. After simmering for several hours, your collard greens should start to look like a load of clothes in the washing machine. While the analogy may not sound appetizing, the shank and greens will be broken down and the flavors will all be married at this point. You can literally simmer the greens all day long if you like but it's really not necessary.
Pair your collard greens with a dish that takes just as long to cook... smoked or slow cooked oven ribs!
Collard Greens (Ribs removed and sliced width wise - inch to inch and a half slices)
Smoked Ham Shank (cut into quarters)
Yellow Onion (Large - Chopped)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Black Pepper (Freshly Ground)
Prep Time: 3 hours
Slice up the bacon in small pieces. In a pot, brown the bacon over medium heat till it's crispy.
Add the onions and shallot and cook till translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic a cook one more minute.
Remove the ribs from the greens, roll a bunch together and slice width wise. Slices should be an inch to inch and a half wide. Add the greens to the pot and cook till wilted.
Add all the rest of the ingredients including stock, vinegar, chili flakes, brown sugar, ham shank, pepper and Tabasco. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours or until preferred tenderness is reached and the meat falls of the bone. Half the simmer time should be done with the top on and the other half with it off.